Al Roker Invests In The Future Of Social Media [INTERVIEW]

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(photo credit: NBC)

You ever had one of those days when Al Roker calls you to shoot the breeze? No? Ha, I used to be like you, but now I live on the other side of the spectrum. Yup, NMR got to chat with the legend himself, Mr. Al Roker. And guess what? He’s just as funny and upbeat as you’d hope he’d be (actually, I kind of hoped he’d secretly have a British accent or something).

See, Al is very new media-oriented and only getting more involved. He already has an excellent knowledge of how to pester his “Today” castmates with his Vine account, he’s all set up on Twitter, and his established production company is looking to bring digital shows into their fold.

So actually, it makes perfect sense that NMR would sit down with “America’s Weatherman” to see how things were in his “neck of the woods” (my wife is a HUGE fan of “Today” so she MADE me ask him that — apparently that’s his catchphrase). Turns out, Al Roker is kind of a non-stop guy. When he’s not doing the weather on the “Today” show or running his production company or making Vine videos or going to Drake concerts (true story!), he’s overseas doing USO work with the likes of Jay Leno and Craig Robinson. Damn, right?

Al, like Larry King, George Takei and a handful of others, is looking to bridge the gap between old and young — medias, that is. Of course, if a few senior citizens start checking out NMR on the reg, we won’t complain. We’ll even try to keep our terrible, newfangled music down.

So, Al, how are things in your “neck of the woods”?

AL: They are fine — I could not be in a better place to be right now.

Wow, that sounds so positive …

Well, you know, I just came back from Afghanistan … I took Jay Leno, Craig Robinson, Iliza Shlesinger and Kevin Eubanks on a USO comedy tour. And you see what our troops are enduring, what they do, and it gives you such a sense of pride and honor to do it. But you just realize there are people who are sacrificing their time, their effort, their personal comfort for our freedom and you just … you feel that much more blessed.

You’re kind of a busy guy … you’ve also got a gig scheduled for Pivotcon?

Yes … I’m not sure how much I’m going to add to anything anybody’s going to hear, but I’m glad that they’ve asked. I’m one of these people who’s been around for a while in traditional media. But I’ve been fascinated by whatever you call new media as it comes up. When I first started in television, the medium to get news was film and I started experimenting with shooting video tape. That was new media back in the mid-70s. I remember in 1992, launching a website, AlRoker.com and thinking, “This internet thing, this is almost like radio in the 1920s.” And every time there’s been something different, I just like to play with it — whether it’s Vine or … Instagram or whatever … apps … I think its an interesting and different way to communicate. What I think is interesting, at the end of the day, is it’s still all television because you’re viewing it on a screen. In a way, we’re coming back to the future. When you look at the size of the screens of televisions back in the 1940s, it would be very small circular, or somewhat rectangular screens. Probably not much bigger than the size of your iPad. But the difference is, you couldn’t carry it around. Now you can.

Now do you think we’re going to be recycling that trend to a point where we have 55-inch-screen iPads?

Yeah, we’ll probably have anti-mag devices that levitate and you just walk around … the wall of your home is just going to be a screen. It’s coming. You know it’s coming. It’s either going to be very small, or very, very big.

I dig Al Roker’s vision of the future. I saw on your Vine you were at a Drake concert recently and the hash tag read #TooOld … how did you find yourself at a Drake concert?

I have a daughter who, at the time, was 15 … well, still is, actually. And she wanted to go see Drake. And I go “There’s no way I’m letting my 15-year-old and two of her friends loose in an arena,” so I thought, I’ve got to go with her. So, you know, I went. And it’s like, “Oh my!” And I kind of flashed back to years before, going with my 27-year-old to a Z100 concert and Barenaked Ladies was playing and Duran Duran and it was the same thing with different music. That’s what I love about Vine: in six seconds it says what I’m feeling at that moment and I really don’t need that much more. I was kinda shocked it got re-Vined as many times as it did.

What do your “Today” show castmates think about you putting them on Vine?

I think they’re fine with it. Some of them are a little more tech-savvy than others. Matt is kind of dragged screaming and kicking into this. Savannah likes it though, again, she’s a little bit of a Luddite. Natalie is into it full-bore, so is Willie Geist and Carson and Cameron, but everyone is a little bit … they don’t mind us doing it. Themselves doing it, they’re a little shaky, but that’s okay.

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Now Al Roker Entertainment, you guys are producing a show — are you looking towards developing anything for new media?

As we produce for “traditional” media, for value added, after-the-show or behind-the-scenes extra stuff, whoever we’re doing a show for, it goes onto their website. And so, we’ve already been doing that for a number of years. And now, as we are looking to find new talent, new ideas, we take things we’ve Skyped or people who have sent us stuff and we put it on our website or those folks’ sites and see what kind of reaction we get. It’s a great petri dish to find out what people are thinking, what are they thinking about these people, about their ideas. We’ve done it for the Weather Channel, for online. We did this interesting concept, this one-minute game show and it was so popular, it migrated it to the actual channel itself. We’ve found that there are ways to take new media and graph it on to the traditional stuff and vice versa.

Final question: what celebrity do you get mistaken for the most?

Wow, I would say, Denzel Washington. Action hero — you know it’s been crazy since that movie “The Equalizer” has come out — (people are like) “Denzel, Denzel!” (And I’m like) “No, no, sorry.”

I can’t believe I forgot to ask him about the time he pooped his pants at the White House. Oh well, I’ll just sit here by my phone on the off chance he ever decides to call again. Hell of a guy, that Al Roker. Yup, hell of a guy.

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