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'ET' Jumps on Web Bandwagon

Once upon a time, producing a half-hour entertainment newsmagazine meant just that. These days, producing a nightly half-hour show is only the beginning. Access magazines now have their staffs posting stories on their shows' Websites, sending out mobile alerts and tweeting and twittering away.

Entertainment Tonight is the latest news brand available on-the-go through Apple. CBS Mobile, in conjunction with Rhythm New Media, has developed a free application that's now available at the iTunes App store.

“We've been planning and looking at where we want to be,” says Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. “We want to get our headlines, photos, videos and breaking news out there. The iPhone app is a condensed version of our Website, which is constantly being updated.”

The app features real-time updates from, and its navigation bar allows users to browse through tabbed sections including news, videos, pictures and most-viewed stories. Clips can be lined up in a playlist for uninterrupted playback. The app also includes social networking features that allow users to share stories, photos and videos with friends.

CBS Mobile is working on similar applications for other mobile platforms, including BlackBerry, but it started with Apple's iPhone and iTouch because those devices handle video especially well, says Jeff Sellinger, executive VP and general manager of CBS Mobile.

“We're talking about celebrities and entertainment news, so whatever we put out there has to be visually stunning,” Sellinger says. “We also wanted it to have viral features so people can share this news with other people. We've noticed that people especially like to do that with entertainment content.”

Entertainment Tonight also has added mobile alerts. Fans can go to ET's Website, enter their mobile phone number and start receiving breaking news and headlines on their phone, often accompanied by a photo or a video.

The phone content is packaged in “quick, bite-sized information” geared toward a wide demographic, Sellinger says. “Entertainment news is always interesting, and it's happening all day long.”

While the anchors, reporters and crew of ET and The Insider are producing the day's news, they also send out updates via Twitter. Anchors Mary Hart and Mark Steines, correspondents Kevin Frasier and Thea Andrews, Bell Blue and much of the producing staff have Twitter accounts that fans can follow.

“I don't think any Website is an island,” Bell Blue says. “We need to be part of the social networking environment. It keeps people thinking about us all day and watching us at night.”

With most viewers spending much of their time online, Bell Blue says “our strategy is to go where our viewers are going.”

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Paige Albiniak
Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.