Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

A Slow Dime

Posted by wrmattison on October 31, 2016

Jenkin’s essay on Joss Whedon and his web creation was an interesting take on fan engagement.  It focused on how Whedon’s cheaply made web series, Dr. Horrible, gained a lot of ground online through a small but veracious fan base.  Whedon’s creation was marketed true to itself, boasting the series as a simple for-the-web show and not a major artistic work from Hollywood.  With mild expectations and some dedicated fans, the show succeeded mostly because it was better than was advertised and the word of mouth marketing from fans was enormous.

The series had everything going for it.  A strong fan base that loved to talk about the series, low budget, high earnings.  It was by no means a huge block buster that raked in millions, but it was profitable and sustainable.  The key component of this success were the fans.  The show was available for free at first; this allowed for easy access and spreadability.  Once the fans, dubbed “The Browncoats,” latched on to this, they pushed their newfound show onto other related fandoms.  It was a hook, line, and sink situation for Whedon.  All of his marketing was done for him because he made the show accessible in its early stages.  After the show became a hit, and The Browncoats were in full force, the show was released for sale on iTunes and on DVD.  It was kind of a trick play on Whedon’s part.  He gave the people something to love, and then began charging them.  It would have been more difficult to sell something that fans didn’t know they loved.

Another popular aspect of the show were the fan contributions.  Viewers submitted music and other creative ideas to the show which turned into soundtracks and other series related media.  Whedon hit the ball out of the park by giving his already fervent fans a sense of ownership of the series.  To reiterate, the series wasn’t a major earner, but its steady growth and loyal fans made it a success.  Instead of an extremely hyped up movie that makes millions on opening weekend, the show had a gradual and strong growth in popularity.  Instead of making a fast nickel, the show earned a slow dime. Dr. Horrible is a prime example of interactive and spreadable media.


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