Having a word that you created added to the Merriam Webster dictionary, and named "word of the year" would be enough to satisfy a normal man, but for Stephen Colbert, its just the opening act. Since defining "truthiness" on his "conservative" talk show, The Colbert Report, he’s roasted the president at a national press dinner, adopted a bald eagle, and was recently immortalized as a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor.
What’s unique about the Colbert Report is how it includes fans in the show by calling on them to do Stephen’s bidding. The Colbert Reports ongoing battle with Wikipedia shows the magnitude of the shows influence online.
Colbert vs. Wikipedia: Back to Wikiality
In August 2006, Colbert defined the word "Wikiality" as a "reality we can agree on" through Wiki articles. In the segment he encouraged viewers to edit posts to say that the population of elephants had tripled in the last 6 months.
- While it may not have saved the elephants, Colbert’s request tripled the number of visitors to elephant related Wikipedia articles.
- Colbert related articles saw significantly higher traffic during the same week. In fact, traffic to Colbert Wikipedia pages was actually higher than traffic to Colbert’s Fan site.
In late January, Colbert addressed Wikipedia again, this time discussing "Wikilobbying," In doing so, he again called on his fans to change the Wikipedia entry for "reality" to read "reality has become a commodity".
- In the week of the request, traffic to "reality" on Wikipedia nearly quintupled.
- The mere mention of Elephants in the same Colbert Report segment seems to have caused 150% spike in traffic to Elephant articles as well.
While the folks at Wikipedia are understandably annoyed with Colbert’s attempt at corrupting their information, the large swings in traffic to specific articles is beginning to blur the line between TV and the internet. More importantly, it demonstrates that while Stephen Colbert may not be able to increase the elephant population, he can save them from not getting any attention.