In Spreadable Media, Henry Jenkins identifies five reasons that media spreads, but is he missing any? His five factors of spreadability are that the medium is 1) relatable, 2) accessible, 3) elicits emotions, 4) easy to share, and 5) sticky. In light of these factors, I analyzed a media clip from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Through this, I find that while Jenkins’ factors for media spread are generally effective, he is missing an important one–star power.
The Tonight Show runs a segment called the Wheel of Musical Impressions. Last year, they invited singer Christina Aguilera to participate. In the game, Jimmy Fallon and Christina Aguilera took turns singing. They were assigned to sing like a famous vocalist and well-known but often silly song. The segment was aired on NBC and also published on Youtube where it now has over 55,000,000 views.
This media artifact is relatable and elicits emotion. Viewers find the clip relatable as almost everyone enjoys singing to music, and even mimicking certain vocalists through karaoke. Jenkins says that emotion is also necessary for viral media, and other experts agree. Because Christina does such an effective job of impersonating not only the vocals, but also the nonverbal behaviors of the singers, it elicits the emotion of amusement in viewers. Both of these factors helped the video go viral.
This segment is also both accessible and easy to share. This segment was accessible when the show originally aired on NBC in 2015. Anyone who has access to a TV could watch. In addition, the clip is accessible via YouTube so any Internet users can view it there. This artifact is easy to share with the YouTube Share button. Thus, many people shared the clip on social media websites. The Tonight Show pages shared it themselves and pages such as Buzzfeed shared it. From seeing those posts, even more people shared. The accessibility and sharability of this segment made it go viral.
The stickability of this segment is more up for debate. Jenkins discusses stickiness as material people want to spread. This segment was certainly shared by a lot of people, and a lot of people wanted to spread it. However, stickiness also is participatory as well which is not ready seen in this video. There is no invitation to shape the concept and there is no encouragement for the audience to use the content in anyway outside of sharing it. Thus, the concept of stickiness is only half realized in this viral video.
One factor of spreadability that Henry Jenkins does not cover is that of star power. When celebrities are in media, that media tends to draw more attention. Taylor Casti of the Huffington Post writes that Fallon’s segments usually goes viral because “it’s fun to watch famous people acting absurd.” Since celebrities typically try to put there best foot forward, it is enjoyable to see them in another light. Thus, when Christina lets loose and imitates singers, it draws attention.
Henry Jenkins’ five factors for spreadability create a foundation for understanding why some media artifacts go viral. However it is not a perfect and complete guide. He fails to discuss potential other reasons why media goes viral such as star power. This star power is exemplified in the The Tonight Show the Wheel of Musical Impressions with Christina Aguilera. This media artifact would not have gone viral unless it was 1) relatable, 2) accessible, 3) elicits emotions, 4) easy to share, 5) sticky and finally 6) star powered. These six criteria give the true reasons why media go viral.
Casti, T. (2014, July 28). Why Fallon, Not Kimmel, Is King Of The Viral Video. Retrieved March 07, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taylor-casti/jimmy-fallon-viral-video_b_5374674.html
Jenkins, H. (2013). Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. NYU Press.
Konnikova, M. (2014, January 21). The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You – The New Yorker. Retrieved March 07, 2016, from http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-six-things-that-make-stories-go-viral-will-amaze-and-maybe-infuriate-you
Wheel of Musical Impressions with Christina Aguilera. (2015, February 23). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uD2nOjV3AaI