Editor's Note

Greetings from what has actually been a fairly pleasant (lots of snow, not too cold) winter here in Cambridge.

In this issue of the C3 Newsletter, CMS graduate student and C3 researcher Sheila Seles shares with us her exciting new research for 2010: an intervention on the 'death and destruction' discourse surrounding the growing disruption of television business models. In this research abstract, Sheila positions an argument for a more informed, less reactionary response to disaggregated audiences and evolving notions of media value.

In a research abstract by C3 research specialist Alex Leavitt,
how online television differs from the conventions of watching television is discussed. While ideas surrounding the construction of audience are central to this research, Alex introduces an analysis of the media ecology (human, code, content) unique to web-based platforms.

As we mentioned in recent C3 Newsletters, integrating these research abstracts into the twice monthly C3 Newsletter allows the larger C3 community a more direct communication with the C3 research team during the concept phase of their research memos and white papers.

We strongly encourage you to contact Alex and Sheila directly with questions, concerns or feedback on their current research ( and during this phase of the
research process.

Our Glancing at the Blog and C3 in the News sections of the newsletter continue to capture some of the recent C3 website blog posts and the ongoing, somewhat overwhelming traffic and coverage we continue to experience in the blogosphere, in newspapers and on websites.

This issue of the C3 Newsletter was edited by Daniel Pereira. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email him.



In This Issue

Editor's Note

Research Memo Abstract: Something Old, Something New: Understanding the value of television’s disaggregated audiences by Sheila Seles

Glancing at the C3 Blog

C3 in the News

Research Memo Abstract: More Cerebral Gelatinizing Shows Anytime, Anywhere: Constructing Audiences for Online Television in the Media Ecology by Alex Leavitt

CMS Podcasts

The CMS Colloquium Series is intended to provide an intimate and informal exchange between a visiting speaker and CMS faculty, students, visiting scholars and friends. Subjects relate to the various media we create and consume each day: film, TV, comics, videogames, the internet, and the vast body of emerging media that's being created as you read this.


Research Memo Abstract

Something Old, Something New: Understanding the value of television’s

disaggregated audiences

This paper will explore how dominant modes of audience measurement focus on forcing the old logics of aggregation onto a disaggregated space to the detriment of television business models. Digital distribution has opened up new opportunities for monetizing television content; and advertisers, publishers, and measurement firms (like Nielsen) are all trying to maintain the value of audiences while viewers adopt new technologies. Trade press discourse around these issues has reached exaggerated proportions because the television industry has evolved into a system so large and rigid that overcoming inertia has been a severe inhibitor to change. A recent New York Times article quotes Andy Donchin, director of media investment for the ad agency Carat: “The DVR was going to kill television.” Kevin Wassong former TV development executive warned against the scourge of Hulu in paidContent last spring: “The form and function of Hulu is great—but it may also represent the greatest destruction of media value in our lifetime…Eat Hulu before it eats you!” In an April issue of Adweek Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal’s president of research wrote of the “crisis in measurement”: “This isn't just about television -- the problem extends across all media platforms. And it's not about the lack of data. We are virtually drowning in data.” These accounts in popular and trade press say that new technologies are threatening to kill, destroy, eat, and drown the television industry. What about the current state of television inspires such fear?

Assessing “media value” is a key challenge facing the television industry. In this paper, I will explore how the dominant logics of the television industry evolved and how emergent logics can provide robust solutions to the challenges of valuating media. Television’s dominant industrial logics rely on outmoded assumptions that fail to capture the full value of the current media landscape. Where aggregation through gross ratings points makes sense to valuate broadcast audiences, today’s audience is fragmented across channels and platforms. This fragmented landscape is well served by the logics borne of digital business models—especially search marketing and recommendation engines. Fortunately, though television is still struggling to adapt to strictly digital distribution, there are many contemporary examples of methods that have been able to successfully leverage digital data into knowledge about users. These new logics offer robust solutions to the classic issues involved in making television viewers valuable to advertisers.

That digital data is valuable almost goes without question; the challenge has become translating that data into actionable knowledge without jeopardizing lucrative business models. I will argue that disaggregated audiences can be just as valuable as aggregated audiences, but that their value is different. To make disaggregated audiences valuable, researchers must appeal to them by understanding the context of viewing and the behavior of viewers across platforms. The final section of this paper will offer insight into those contexts and behaviors. By analyzing the value of disaggregated audiences on several levels, we can move away from the rhetoric of death and destruction and toward a nuanced appreciation of audience behavior.

[1] Carter, “DVR, Once TV’s Mortal Foe, Helps Ratings.”

[2] Wassong, “Memo To Networks Re Hulu: You’re Making A Big Mistake | paidContent.”

[3] Wurtzel, “Crisis Management.”

Sheila Seles is a Graduate Research student with the Convergence Culture Consortium. Sheila's research is focused on commercial non-broadcast television distribution. You can read her 2009 C3 White paper It's (not) the End of TV as we Know It: Understanding Online Television and its Audience by logging into the back-end of the C3 website. If you need a reminder of you username and password, drop us an email.

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Three Converging Presentations: Digital Migrants, Western Otaku, and Our Google-ized World

Fandom, Participatory Culture, and Web 2.0 -- A Syllabus


China: The First Geographical Walled Garden and What It Means for the Future of the Internet

Zuckerberg's Privacy Dispute: A Need for Comparative Social Network Analysis

Follow the Blog

Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.

C3 and Transmedia in the News


Professor Jenkins to Speak at Film Finance Summit 2008 in Santa Monica, CA

NY Times Article by Manohla Dargis on the growing Transmedia Storytelling Movement within Independent Cinema: "The Coming Revolution in Indie Distribution"

Transmedia Storytelling: Pioneers in the New Age of Narrative, Pt. II - Lisa Holton of FourthStory Media - The Bookish Dilettante Blog - The Bookish Dilettante

ad broad: transmedia messaging--Santa's been doing it for years

Pratten, R ~ Moving Filmmakers - Woi Woi

all the modern things: techblawg #11 Transmedia Storyteeling from Orson Welles

Third Day of Sharing: Choose Your Own Adventure « Transmedia Me

Principles of Transmedia Storytelling « Dan Pankraz Vs Youth

Parasites Multiverse 1.0

Transmedia. An introduction to diversity in storytelling. |

Moving Filmmakers to a Transmedia Business Model culture hacker

Filmmaker Magazine | Filmmaker Blog

Research Memo Abstract

More Cerebral Gelatinizing Shows Anytime, Anywhere: Constructing Audiences

for Online Television in the Media Ecology

During the 2009 Super Bowl, aired a commercial [1] in which Alec Baldwin, describing the website, explains, "Hulu beams TV directly to your portable computing devices, giving you more of the cerebral gelatinizing shows you want anytime, anywhere, for free." While the advertisement maintains a mock-serious, humorous tone, Baldwin's concise statement about the purpose of Hulu -- it puts television on your computer -- conflicts with the general experience of online video compared to the conventions of watching television. How does the concept of television online affect how audiences are constructed?

This paper argues that online television can develop from older cultural practices of watching television as long as online video distributors understand how their platforms affect user engagement. In his essay, "second-shift media aesthetics: programming, interactivity, and user flows" (2003), John Caldwell writes that the primary goal of television networks has continually been "to keep viewers engaged with a single network's proprietary, ad-sponsored “flow'" (134). He argues that in the face of failure in potentially not achieving this goal of viewer loyalty, networks have shifted their strategies to "push"-ing out ancillary content, especially online, to drive audience engagement back toward the television set. However, these attempts which he describes are merely that -- ancillary to the programs' narratives -- and he avoids the most recent trends that networks have taken to adapt to the evolving media landscape, where networks have established video portals that feature clips and full episodes directly gleaned from the television set. Unlike Caldwell's explanation of "programming strategies [that] have shifted from notions of network program 'flows' to tactics of audience/user 'flows,' these online spaces benefit from a new temporal and spatial variety of programming that interacts with audience networks.

I build upon Caldwell's notion of different flows to explain the relationship between online programming and audience networks, and its value to the organizing television networks that aim to establish the relationship. To interpret the connections between audience and programming present in these online spaces, particularly where television networks operate not as producers but as distributors, it is necessary to understand the media ecologies of the Web spaces: the relationship between human, physical, code, and content layers of a system online. On websites such as,, and, it is not just the cultural modes of viewing television, but also how the structure of the Web-based platform shapes new and reshapes old cultural practices that affects the relationship between the programming and its potential audiences.

By examining how viewers interact with programming across multiple television networks' websites, this paper aims to investigate further the concept of "the television audience." How do the cultural practices of a television viewer translate to the online space, and how do video portals mediate new cultural practices of watching online video? I argue that constructions of audience depend on relative variables of user, viewer, and audience identity (distinctions that Caldwell's outdated moniker of "user-viewer" does not approach). In particular, I build upon Sheila Seles's interpretation [3] of the value of disaggregated audiences: in such a segregated media environment, how does an understanding of the online television audience inform how program-specific viewers and site-specific users remain television audiences across platforms?

Finally, this paper also applies these cultural practices of television and online video to a proposed analysis of the value of the relationship between the audience member and the online distribution mechanism. TVWeek reported [4] in October 2009 that Hulu would begin charging a subscription fee for its services, and the New York Times published [5] in December 2009 commentary on Comcast's initiative to put cable television on the Web through its "TV Everywhere" initiative. With the opportunity for television networks to establish revenues beyond ad-supported measures, how will the fiscal stratagems influence and warp the cultural practices of audiences on websites?


[2] New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality. Ed., Anna Everett & John T. Caldwell. Routledge, 2003.

[3] Something Old, Something New: Understanding the value of television's disaggregated audiences

[4] "Hulu to Charge Users in 2010,"

[5] "Comcast Introduces a Streaming TV Service,"

Alex Leavitt is a research specialist with the Convergence Culture Consortium. Alex graduated from Boston University in May 2009, with a degree in English Literature & Language and Japanese Literature & Language. In 2008, he studied abroad in Japan at Kyoto University through the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies. Alex has previously researched with the Digital Natives Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School, and currently is a Lead Researcher on the Web Ecology Project. His primary research interests include the intersection of fandom & transmedia, Japanese animation & manga, and Internet (sub)culture. Alex has presented numerous talks at major events such as South by Southwest and fan conventions such as Anime Expo, Otakon, and Anime Boston. In addition to his weekly articles on the C3 blog, Alex writes long-form about Japanese popular culture at The Department of Alchemy and short-form on Twitter (@alexleavitt).

The Fine Print

This issue of the C3 Weekly Update compiled and edited by Daniel Pereira ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium.


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