The Death Of Daytime -- Part Eight
The Internet Fan
In the previous parts of this article, I mentioned a lot of the mistakes the people who create the soaps have created, but one problem that has caused the demise of soaps isn't something that can be laid at the feet of the network and the soaps. Another element that has damaged the soaps is an element the networks have no control over: the Internet.
On the surface it seems like a great thing that soap fans connect with each other on the Internet and discuss their favorite shows together. And if it stopped there, that would be be the case. But some fans have taken it a lot further than that. They think there is power in numbers. They think they can make the makers of soaps do what they want them to do.
When I was in junior college, I did a sociology paper on some of the antics that was taking place on a General Hospital message board with some of the largest fan cliques that posted there. Some members bragged about sending threatening letters to an actor they didn't like. Another leader of one of the cliques managed to buy a stolen future script and spent over an hour tormenting the other posters with what they knew from the script but wouldn't reveal. There were others that wanted two characters that had never even appeared in a scene together as a couple and decided to start a mass-writing campaign. The two aforementioned characters they saw as a threat to the couple they wanted together.
They mass-vote in magazine polls to make sure their favorite is number one. If the networks look at these polls as an indication of which characters are popular, they're getting a false picture of who really is popular. They're only seeing who is popular with a few Internet fans that have way too much time on their hands and spend all day sending in votes for who they like.
The thing that has been most damaging to soaps is that the networks start listening to these fans who think they represent the majority of the viewing audience and what that viewing audience wants. Unfortunately, they don't represent the majority of what viewers want and when the networks start giving these people what they want, it ends up driving the majority of viewers away in droves.
If these Internet cliques existed years ago when soaps were really good, some of the best stories told in the history of daytime would never have been told. They would have gotten them killed because it went against what they want to see. It's why no really good stories are told anymore. A story gets started with some potential and these people will mass-write to complain about it and it gets killed.
In short, video killed the radio and the Internet has killed the soaps.