On Friday night, the star of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" angered his "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, saying they promote partisan political debate. The online transcript and video clips of the program immediately became an overnight sensation among Web surfers, bloggers and pundits alike.
As of midday Tuesday, online video hosting site iFilm said, more than 670,000 people had downloaded the CNN clip from its site. The clip runs for about 13 minutes.
Jon Stewart fanned
Internet flames with his
roast of CNN experts.
Links to the iFilm video and CNN.com's online transcript of the show have been posted to countless online bulletin boards and Web logs. Blogdex, a research project by the MIT Media Laboratory that tracks blog community activity, ranked the CNN.com transcript as the top online content being pointed to among bloggers on Monday. On Tuesday, the transcript was tied for the top spot on Blogdex's list.
The video clip also was a favorite among the peer-to-peer community. According to SuprNova.org, which tracks usage of the Bit Torrent file-sharing protocol, the segment is currently being offered for download by more than 1,100 different sources.
The rapid distribution of the clips and transcript illustrates the Web's growing political clout, according to at least one media expert. Jeff Jarvis, the creator of Entertainment Weekly magazine and current president of online creative firm Advance.net, said in his own blog that CNN may have missed the boat by not making the clips available for download to the general public. CNN also said a handfull of subscribers can access the clip online.
"What's fascinating about the Jon Stewart takedown of 'Crossfire' is not just what he said, but how his message got distributed," Jarvis wrote. "The really stupid thing is that CNN didn't do this themselves: 'Hey, we had a red-hot segment...you should watch; here, please, look at this free download because it will promote our (hosts) and our brand and our show and give us a little of that Stewart hip heat.' That's what CNN should have done. Instead, they'll charge you to deliver a videotape (what's that?) the next day."
CNN media representatives said they were not surprised by the massive response, based on "Crossfire's" ratings and Stewart's own visibility. They had no comment on the company's policy of distributing its programming via mail, as opposed to online. The CNN.com site does offer short clips of some of its programs.
In addition, Jarvis pointed out that the Internet serves as a sort of unofficial index of other media outlets, giving people the ability to access almost any report transmitted on television, radio or in print news.
"Welcome to the future of TV!," Jarvis wrote. "In old TV, a moment like this came, and if you missed it, you missed it. Tough luck. In new TV, you don't need to worry about watching it live--live is so yesterday--because thousands of peers will be keeping an eye out for you to let you know what you should watch, and they'll record it and distribute it."