Last of 12 rounds
The challenge was the last of 12 rounds filmed across the country in cities as diverse as Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Cincinnati with five brand sponsors worked into the storyline along the way. The New York sponsor, T-Mobile, incorporated its recently launched "My Faves" feature into a phone-a-friend challenge that used the company's cell phones.
"From our perspective, it's a fluid way to create awareness without shooting the traditional TV show," said Michael Racic, director-interactive media at Optimedia, T-Mobile's agency. "Our product is all about contacting people daily and this is definitely a unique way to engage the brand."
Engagement hasn't been hard for "Gold Rush" to come by -- the metrics speak for themselves. Since September, more than 9 million users have logged in for an average of 18 to 20 minutes for a total of 90 million page views, said Ruth Safarty, AOL's VP-corporate communications.
First time on TV
The Mark Burnett-produced show has also incorporated TV Guide and CBS (home to Mr. Burnett's "Survivor") into its marketing effort. TV Guide provides game clues in its weekly columns, and CBS will air the final round of the New York challenge on Monday's edition of "The Early Show," the first time any part of "Gold Rush" will air on TV. Segments will again be televised on "Entertainment Tonight," which will air the final winner on Nov. 9.
The show awards $100,000 prizes to the winner of each of its 12 national competitions, with 18 total contestants competing for $1 million. It's a bit of a shift from the original premise, which was a scavenger hunt of sorts involving hidden bars of gold scattered across the country.
"Logistically it was too difficult to undertake," Ms. Safarty said. "I think the trick that we figured out over course of time was how to make the game truly interactive and how to translate the familiar game-show form into something that works online."
New crowd for Trump
The online format was still relatively new to Mr. Trump, who wasn't sure how to dress for an online audience. He said he asked himself, "Do I have to look sharp for this?" before the Trump Tower filming.
Tech-savvy or not, Mr. Trump said the importance of new media to TV shows could not be denied. He said the upcoming sixth (and rumored final) season of "The Apprentice" is expected to boost its online content when it premieres in January.