I will be the first to admit that this site, both its contributors and the participating community, are not exactly what could be called “unbiased”, per se, when it comes to the passion of the Colbert Nation. Heck, we’re pretty much the hardest of the hard core – the WristSTRONG bracelet wearing, vacation to New York taking, IAAASCY reading, Ben & Jerry’s eating, Donors Choose supporting, chocolaty nougat center of the Colbert Nation. We watch most every show, and a large part of our online life consists of cavorting with other fans of the ‘Colbert Report’.
So reading a recent article in the New York Times really brought up some mixed feelings for me. The title of the article is “Comedy Central Tries to Gauge Passion of Its Viewers“, and it talks about a survey conducted by Comedy Central. The article starts by discussing some of the words used to describe Stewart and Colbert by fans of the show (“friendly,” “fun,” “more informed, “more intelligent,” “trustworthy,” “warm,” and “witty”), and the perception of the loyalty of said audiences towards Stewart and Colbert.
Then it gets a little … what’s the word? Corporate.
All those encomiums, which were included in a list that participants could check off, were chosen by more than 60 percent of people answering the survey, which, it should come as no surprise, was commissioned by Comedy Central. Besides the virtue of puffing up their viewers’ self-images, the survey had a practical point.
The cable channel wants to prove that its late-night viewers are so impassioned about their hosts that their shows offer special value to beleaguered television advertisers looking to ensure that their messages reach truly engaged viewers.
It’s always odd seeing the impression of the fandom by people who are on the outside of it. Seeing it in a publication as prestigious as the New York times doubly so. The Times goes on to discuss the Passion of the Nation:
In the Harris survey, conducted from Oct. 29 to Dec. 22 last year — a period that included the presidential election and its aftermath, which could have bolstered the politically charged versions of late-night humor that Comedy Central offers — the biggest margins of difference came when fans were asked about their “emotional connection” to their favorite shows.
Or, as Ms. Coleman described the behavior of the committed late-night viewers: “They not only talk, but they stalk.”
Comparing reactions of committed viewers, the Comedy Central hosts easily held their own even against the power of Ms. [Oprah] Winfrey. She was dominant in things like getting viewers to visits Web sites and read books she recommended; but, in what looked like a real upset, both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert did better on the question of whether a viewer wanted to be the host’s personal assistant for a day.
Viewers of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” have a deep personal connection to the shows, Ms. Coleman said. “They wear these shows like a badge,” she said. “It’s a cultlike phenomenon.”
The rest of the article basically works to answer the question “What advertiser wouldn’t want in on that?” Which is a valid question. Up to a point.
I understand that the show must have sponsors to be able to have the funds to be produced and to pay the salaries of the staff. I get that, and I support the sponsors quite often. (Mojito, anyone?) But does knowing that the network, and the advertisers, want to take our organic, passionate responses to Stephen and Jon and their wonderful work and turn it into a cash cow make anyone else want to take a shower?
As what they in the bidness would call the “target audience” of the ‘Colbert Report’, what are your thoughts on this article?