Watching Television Without Pity
The Productivity of Online Fans

by Mark Andrejevic (University of Iowa)

Increasingly, online fan sites are providing instant feedback to television writers and
scriptwriters, who are starting to pay more attention to the chatter of “the boards.” At the same
time, the boards have become a marketing strategy for TV shows that takes advantage of
interactivity to create fan communities and build viewer loyalty. Drawing on a case study
of the popular web site TelevisionWithoutPity.com, this article explores the way in which
online viewer activity doubles as a form of value-enhancing labor for television producers
in two ways: by allowing fans to take on part of the work of making a show interesting
for themselves and by providing instant (if not necessarily statistically representative) feed-
back to producers. Based on interviews with producers and contributors to a bulletin
board they frequent, the article explores both sides of interactivity: the promise of shared
control and the ability to off-load some market research labor onto viewers. (download)