- Netflix has hit its stride in propelling its original shows and movies into conversation on the internet and social media.
- “Bird Box,” “You,” Marie Kondo, the Fyre Festival, and even the serial killer Ted Bundy have seen a huge boost from this new Netflix Effect.
- At over 139 million paying customers, Netflix has finally reached the scale to be able to instantly drive the pop-culture conversation around its new originals.
The tidying-up maven Marie Kondo has been famous for years. Her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” was a smash hit and made her an international superstar. She was even listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2015.
But she wasn’t Netflix-famous until 2019.
On January 1, Netflix released a new unscripted series starring Kondo called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” You can think about it like “Queer Eye” – another Netflix hit – but for tidying. Kondo helps families get their clutter under control, but it’s really about them getting their lives and relationships under control. It’s a sweet show, and I have enjoyed the handful of episodes I’ve watched.
But beyond people like me watching the show, the online chatter around Kondo has become its own frenzy.
Ever since the show’s debut, Kondo references have been popping up in my social feeds at a steady clip, from people talking about Marie Kondo-ing their lives to one particular “I love mess” meme that will probably be used for years.
You’ve probably seen it:
Here’s another one:
does it spark joy? pic.twitter.com/BEeQdH2Lec
— Tommy Siegel (@TommySiegel) January 23, 2019
And it’s not just about the memes.
More striking to me has been the change in search volume for “Marie Kondo” that has happened since the Netflix series. Looking at Google Trends, you can see an enormous spike. A boost is to be expected when someone debuts a new show, but the magnitude is staggering:
Bear in mind that Kondo was already one of the most influential people in the world. She had already seen her name made into a verb, something usually reserved for the Ubers and Googles of the world.
Netflix’s Kondo show has had an offline effect as well, with San Francisco Bay Area thrift stores telling CBS they have seen levels of donations this month usually not seen until spring cleaning.
And it’s not just Kondo who has seen the power of Netflix’s reach recently.
Earlier this month, I wrote about how Netflix had come to drive a new type of worldwide water-cooler conversation by rapidly injecting its shows and movies into the social-media sphere. Two recent originals, “Bird Box” and “You,” went viral not because they were groundbreaking works of art but because they got people talking and making memes. That, combined with Netflix’s massive subscriber base of over 139 million paying customers, got 80 million (“Bird Box”) and 40 million (“You”) accounts to view them in the first month.
That level of internet conversation and viewership combine for a tangible sense of FOMO in those who haven’t watched – or aren’t Netflix subscribers.
“For part of your Netflix subscription, you are in the zeitgeist,” Netflix’s content head, Ted Sarandos, said on the company’s most recent earnings call.
“Bird Box” and “You” were scripted, but Kondo’s show and Netflix’s new Fyre Festival documentary have shown that Netflix’s power works for unscripted originals as well.
The disastrous Fyre Festival, which led to a six-year prison sentence for its founder, was the subject of two documentaries this month: one from Netflix and one from Hulu. The festival was an internet sensation when it imploded in 2017 and bewildered festivalgoers who had paid thousands of dollars for tickets were left stranded on an island in the Bahamas with only old tents to sleep in and no music acts. Images of gross cheese sandwiches and general mayhem vent viral, and it became a national news story.
But if you take a look at Google Trends, there was actually more search traffic around the Netflix documentary than there was around the event itself:
That graph is as stunning as the Kondo one considering that at the time it was happening, the Fyre Festival felt like virality incarnate, from the stranded rich millennials to the duped influencers. But Netflix still amplified it.
And of course, there were memes, particularly related to a certain interview subject, Andy, and what he said he was prepared to do for the good of the festival:
Andy King has seen all of your FYRE Fest memes — and he loves them! pic.twitter.com/mCNgDoHpjW
— Netflix (@netflix) January 29, 2019
“Bird Box,” “You,” Marie Kondo, the Fyre Festival, and others have spread on the internet thanks to this new Netflix Effect in the past two months, and if that performance is any indication, you can expect it to keep happening through 2019, for all genres of shows and movies.
This week, Netflix’s Twitter account even had to tell its subscribers to tone down their reactions to its new documentary series about the executed serial killer Ted Bundy, which has also begun to go viral (with a boost from a related movie starring Zac Efron).
“I’ve seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service – almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers,” Netflix wrote.
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