Ever since Robert D. Putnam’s iconic monologue—Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community—in 2000 on the reduction of civil participation and social capital in the United States there has been a lively debate on the state of the American participatory democracy. Dated before the social media revolution, Putnam’s work highlighted the social capital-eroding role of media in American society; interestingly, however, social media subsequently enabled the combination of media consumption and participation—no matter if this is for a personal, political, or commercial nature.
While the link between a participatory democracy and business might seem far-fetched to you, we need only to direct our attention to the commercially oriented Comedy Central TV network, and its political satire programs, to comprehend the inherent connection between political interest and political participation on the one hand, and commercial entertainment on the other hand. Although there is much to be said about the role of the entertaining programs as The Daily Show or the Colbert Report in American democracy, both programs arguably have found interesting way to spur social participation in the past—just think of “The Rally to Restore Sanity” a couple of years ago. The Daily Show, however, recently demonstrated its ability to foster participation—although certainly not in the way Putnam had in mind—while promoting the commercial goals of the network and its partners.
In March, the political satire program decided to use the concept of co-creation to maintain its presence and entertaining value over a small broadcasting break. Using a political campaign commercial from Senator (Rep.) Mitch McConnell, the Daily Show host John Stewart included a segment where the show displayed segments from this commercial on the tune of ridiculing music. In order to keep its presence during the show’s broadcasting break, Stewart coined this activity as #McConnelling while the show launched a website called http://www.mcconnelling.org where guests could construct their own ridiculing video by dropping and dragging scenes from the commercial and selecting the soundtrack from any YouTube video as background music. #McConnelling proved to be a major success among the shows predominately younger viewers as many opted to create their own video, which they could subsequently share with the world through social media. As a result, googling #McConnelling shows you dozens of top-25 self-made clips. It should be clear that the Daily Show successfully used the concept of co-creation to remain in the center of attention without broadcasting new episodes for a week.
While this concept seems rather simple, it does hide a few interesting factors. The McConnelling website is only available in Google Chrome and you can only use videos uploaded on YouTube to create your own clip. Thus, #McConnelling, also offered Google the opportunity to reach the show’s 2.5 million daily viewers large and subsequently force them—well, if they wanted to participate anyway—to use Google products. This is a perfect example of how empowering users to co-create content can serve multiple commercial goals.
Of course, this example of co-creation is just a funny, yet smart, example to attract users and retain viewers, the broader concept could actually be used to foster a more societally beneficial form of social and political participation while also fostering business. Think about it, this co-creation platform could also offer the possibility to citizens to create clips highlighting the most important elements of political speeches, especially during election periods. This could prove to be an effective way to filter out what the constituency finds most important—potentially enabling news media outlets to select relevant topics for their broadcasts. Until that time, however, just enjoy yourself by making your own clip through the link below; just remember, it only works if you have Google Chrome!
- #McConneling. The Daily Show. http://mcconnelling.org/
- Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Print.
- “The Daily Show Introduced McConnelling. (N.d). Digg.com.
- TV By the Numbers. (04/04/2013). Zap2it.com.