It was viral…a leaning in and not back event…a socially involved and active happening, where people were interactively engaged and immersively involved.
No doubt the DIGIBABBLISTS are pumping their fists at my use of so many clichés while others are rolling their eyes for the same reason.
But it was a perfect storm, for me, in which people just did what people do and experienced important events, as people have always done and will always do, with full and unselfconscious enthusiasm.
And a perfect storm it was – that being the Comey hearings held before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2017, at 10 a.m. eastern time.
It was a workday in the US and it began before lunchtime.
In my office people gathered in front of big-screen TVs (big monitors at other times) to watch the proceedings together, and across the US bars opened early to provide both place and potion for enhanced viewer experience and lubricated discussion.
Close to 20 million people watched on broadcast and cable and who knows how many through various streaming sources, social updates and other digital channels. And BTW, none of the numbers takes into account the multiple audiences watching together from one source…nor does it take into account radio.
The New York Times reported:
The viewership figure released on Friday by the television tracking firm Nielsen did not include statistics for PBS, C-Span or the Fox broadcasting affiliates that carried the hearing live.
And it can be difficult to account for those who congregated at viewing parties across the country.
Many more people followed along with Mr. Comey on the radio or online, with numerous news sites livestreaming the proceedings. Twitter and Bloomberg News, for instance, said that their joint livestream reached an average of 129,000 viewers a minute.
It was reality TV to the nth degree but it was also more – it was a big event…in fact, its audience was about the same number of people who watched Game 2 of this week’s N.B.A. finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And it included the most elusive audience to many.
A piece published in The Atlantic, “This Is the Most D.C. Thing You Can Do,” reported:
Forget holidays, elections, or even national tragedies. Nothing brings out Washingtonians’ civic spirit quite like a high-profile political probe.
In honor of Comey Day—the June 8 appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee of fired FBI Director James Comey—a smattering of downtown D.C. bars decided to do the patriotic thing by opening early and offering investigation-themed drink specials….
It was overwhelmingly a young crowd. (Who else can afford to play hooky from work to hang out in a bar watching cable news?) Despite the gravity of the occasion, most folks were in a festive mood. Some were attired for the office, in suits or sensible dresses. But most were in play clothes: shorts, jeans, t-shirts, sandals. (Again: spending a Thursday morning drinking.) People were chatting up strangers, passing around beers, gamely answering the same tedious questions being asked by the reporters circling “like seagulls at the beach” (thanks for the metaphor, Jim!), and even sharing their tater tots and chicken wings as the morning wore on and the bar food started flowing. “It’s like Christmas!” I heard a guy enthuse to the young woman who had come in with him.
Staying away from the politics of the politics, there is so much to learn from that morning.
- Stop obsessing over TV being a dead, passive (lean back) medium.
- Stop obsessing over virtual events being the future.
- Stop obsessing over social media being the new TV.
- Stop obsessing over Millennials not being engaged.
- Stop obsessing.
Think about my perfect storm where it all came together. The right event, created the right content and smart people created the right venues and good programmers created the right broadcasts and the right channels (of all kinds) shared them, and so on and so forth, as millions of people watched, debated, drank and engaged using whatever means worked for them, made sense, enhanced the experience they were having…unselfconsciously.
However, I would be remiss and not true to form if I didn’t put the event itself into some sort of historical context for deeper insight and future understanding.
According to Michigan Radio, “America has a history of watching politics for entertainment”:
Debates between Lincoln and Douglas could last for hours, being viewed as a source of high entertainment. And [historian Gleaves] Whitney says the campaign between Jefferson and Adams included its own mudslinging.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s not act too sanctimonious. Americans love a clown show.”
And there you have it….
It’s still all about the content and its ability to move us…
And in that context, maybe Michigan Radio was unfair in its characterization…listen to one of the great creators of content of all time:
“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” Charlie Chaplin
And there you have it again….
Knee-jerkers, this isn’t about Comey vs Trump.
What do you think?