In his essay, “The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence,” Henry Jenkins discusses the concept of convergence and its function in the contemporary media. Contemporarily, “consumers are learning how to use these different media technologies more fully under their control… they are fighting for the right to participate more fully in their culture, to control the flow of media in their lives and to talk back to the mass market content” (Jenkins 37). As a means of keeping up with/profiting from the consumer’s desire to be involved, we now see and increased interaction between television program and viewer. Want to save this person from elimination? Want to see your comment during tonight’s finale? Quick, tweet now!
This culture ‘hyper- participatory’ we now find ourselves in reminds me of E!’s newest show, The Grace Helbig Show.
Grace Helbig is a YouTube star whose daily show, DailyGrace has gained over 2.4 million subscribers since its inception in 2008. This daily web series is owned by My Damn Channel, which is a multi-channel online network that enables content creators to co-produce and distribute content. Each day of the week has its own segment which is usually based on viewer suggestions and ideas, Q and A’s, and so forth. Tuesdays in a particular “comment on comments” as Grace reads and showcases viewer comments pulled from Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
In 2014, Grace did not renew her My Damn Channel contract, but instead began her own channel, it’sGrace, a decision that stemmed from Helbig’s desire to have more creative control and ownership over her product. Interestingly enough, this show does almost exactly what DailyGrace does in terms of segments and viewer participation. Helbig has since released a book and started the podcast, Not Too Deep. She has also occasionally appeared in various TV commericials.
On April 3, Helbig (and her followers) made the ‘official’ jump over to television when The Grace Helbig Show premiered on the E! Network. Though this show has only been on for two weeks, it is clear that the show consists of all segments one would normally see on Helbig’s YouTube channel over the week compacted into a half hour time slot.
Her online presence becomes the show’s essential narrative and marketable appeal. It relies on Helbig’s already-generated branding and the online viewer commitment that follows it. Her set is decorated with various YouTube references and emojis. Her guests mainly consist of members of the YouTube community, such as Mamrie Hart and Tyler Oakley. Each segment or game on the show is both familiar to and interacts with Helbig followers, and therefore speaks to Jenkin’s point regarding “content with a price tag” (Jenkins 39). Last week’s episode opens with Grace, once again, “commenting on comments” as she reads viewer reviews from her premiere.
In terms of ownership, the trajectory of Helbig’s career is interesting. She has gone from a contract-owned web series to a personal endeavor, only to find herself back under a contract, under a subscription based channel no less. Helbig's segments particularly come into question, as many of them are her own conception, based on viewer interaction, but are now under various networks. Helbig's career - which is, in itself, what Jenkin's calls "a jerry-rigged relationship between different media technologies" as ownership and economic questions come into play- is completely dependent on the concept of convergence and viewer participation. As YouTube's presence continously grows, it will be interesting to see how many more Helbigs flip flop between internet and television.