In the first chapters of Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins discusses the collective communities formed through convergence culture and the influence of product placement. Shows such as Survivor often have a strong fan base that attempt to figure out "spoilers." Curiosity drives viewers to watch this show, and speculating about upcoming events brings fans together on online websites. Fan fiction is very popular as well because fans share it with one another as they immerse themselves in the realm of the show. The Heroes TV show website links to the fan site, which includes stories written by fans and forums relating to the show itself. Entertainment companies take advantage of the World Wide Web to increase their number of viewers. If viewers miss an episode or wish for a recap, they could go to the Heroes site and find a summary in comic book form. With creativity, it is easy to lure in new viewers and/or keep loyal fans.
Just as entertainment companies use websites to promote their show, advertisers use television to broadcast their products. Product placement increases brand reputation. Reality shows such as American Idol are part of convergence culture. Before and after group performances, the remaining contestants act in short ads about a particular product sold by a sponsor of the show. Not only are ads shown during commercials but are embedded into the show itself. The television show then becomes another tool exploited by advertisers to market their goods. Since "the American viewing public is becoming harder and harder to impress," companies need to invent new ways to capture their interest" (Jenkins 67). As consumers, Americans live in a society with a growing range of media options, from the Internet to video games. We spend a considerable amount of time exposed to and consuming media. For instance, "the average consumer watches about 41 percent of the aired advertisements" (67). If our society continues progressing toward the new media end of the spectrum (i.e. using TiVo), companies will need to seek innovative ways to advertise to consumers. Their primary advertising strategy will no longer apply.
Jenkins suggests that reality shows are popular because viewers get to vote for the winner. American Idol was "designed to pull in every possible viewer and to give each a reason not to change the channel" (77). There is something about watching ordinary Americans become overnight sensations that appeals to people. Every week, viewers tune in to find out whether or not their vote counted in their favor. This check-up on the outcome of the polling impels voters to tune in. Watching reality competition shows could be family entertainment as well. Rather than targeting a specific age group, reality shows "pull in" everyone. My family enjoys watching others perform their talents, especially dance competition shows. However, because no plotline exists, we can easily flip to reality competition shows without committing to them. After a contestant performs, my family gossips about who will be voted off or move on to the next round. As Jenkins mentions, "gossip fuels convergence" (83). We can casually talk about our thoughts on the show. It brings us together. Moreover, gossip about a show fosters online communities. Forums exist for fans to clarify and speculate who will be the winner. As long as our society continues to embrace reality television, the media will spit out new ones that they know will gain popularity. Practically all the reality shows on air follow the same formula. I wonder when or if people will ever lose interest in reality shows.