Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Core Response #3: Daily Grace/It’s Grace/Grace Helbig

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. 


  1. Kelsey –

    This is an interesting example of convergence, which I think raises a question concerning our contemporary TV landscape… with the idea of “shuttling” between TV and Internet. It seems this practice is becoming not only more common, but that the two media are, to use the word in a slightly different sense than Jenkins, “converging.” Will it also become more and more difficult to tell the difference between these two media? I’m wondering if television and Internet content will not only cross over more and more, but come to increasingly resemble extensions of the same platform as they become less medium specific? I’m thinking specifically of TV channels which have moved increasingly online (i.e. HBOGo, Showtime Anytime) to compete with streaming video, and “non-television-related” websites like Yahoo and now YouTube introducing original content and subscription based “television-like” services. It will be interesting to see how these web-based series’ adoption by television and television’s adoption of the web extend into or connect with these larger industrial trends.

    -Allison Ross

  2. PBS.org had an interesting article about the blurring line between web series and television:


    The author, Julie Keck, talks about the cancelation of HBO's "Looking" - it's demise due to "struggles of minority stories told on a platform for the majority." It is interesting that cable, once the niche outsider, is no longer niche enough for the modern viewer. Now, we must get our niche politics and world views from the new cable: web series, not just found on Youtube, but on Amazon and Netflix. It seems that the subscriber-based commodification of television has made telling niche stories possible by making them profitable.

    As Jenkins said, "Broadcasting will place issues on the national agenda and define core values. Grassroots media will reframe those issues for different publics and ensure that everyone has a chance to be heard. Innovation will occur on the fringes; consolidation in the mainstream." (35) It seems the fringes are just get further and further out.

    Whether a "shift towards a subscription-based model will result in greater media concentration and the construction of higher barriers of entry to the cultural marketplace" will happen as a result is yet to be seen, but that doesn't appear to be the way things are going. (39) In fact, it appears that subscription-based models are making it possible for web-based networks such as tello, specializing in series about lesbian culture, to thrive in a media landscape where they otherwise would never have been noticed.

  3. Great post Kelsey!

    I'm curious about Helbig's YouTube fan base considering that it's much more expensive to have a cable package that include E network versus having internet access. Additionally, if a week's worth of content is now condensed to a single show, will fans tune in for a full 30 minutes versus just being able to pick and chose the segments that they find most interesting/funny/entertaining? Is she still keeping some kind of creative ownership over her content that she's able to put on YouTube or is everything she produces now strictly owned by E?

    This is a really interesting emerging field in which people are being able to market and profit from what would otherwise be a free investment of fan culture.