'House Of Cards' And A Reminder Of Spoiler Etiquette

Valentine’s Day 2014 saw the premiere of season 2 of the seminal Netflix series “House of Cards.” The first streaming-only “TV” show to win both major Emmy and Golden Globe awards holds special importance in introducing a level of prestige to the medium. It’s an important milestone in the behavioral shift from traditional TV viewing to binge-watching streaming content.

It also represents a major change in how new content is consumed. Instead of releasing episodic material in a serialized format like some online competitors, Netflix chose to release entire seasons of shows like “House of Cards,” “Arrested Development,” and “Orange is the New Black” all at once ­-- giving the streaming junkie plenty of opportunity to lose sleep. This puts a lot of power into the viewers’ hands on how and when they will consume their content.

However, with great power comes great responsibility.  In the olden days, like-minded fans of series would band together and follow weekly installments together. It’s a social experience in and of itself. The debate, discussion, and speculation of what comes next can be almost as fulfilling as watching the series itself. With all-at-once streaming premieres, that experience is gone. And a new risk is very real: spoiler danger.

No one wants to read spoilers about their favorite show. However, several factors are making it hard to avoid. A general information overload means more places to expose pertinent plot points. Not all news sources that show up in Google searches are respectful of this fact. The social web beams with sensitive tidbits. And here’s a pro tip: don’t read that Wikipedia article about your favorite character before you’re caught up. You may accidentally discover he/she suffered an untimely demise.

This need for spoiler etiquette is a recent trend, and it is a matter of responsibility to your audience. Whether you’re a publisher with millions of readers or just someone with a lot of Facebook friends, it’s a simple act of respect to restrain your excitement for the big twists in this year’s most-talked about political drama.

And please be extra-careful with headlines. Simply writing “SPOILER ALERT” followed immediately by the spoiler would be considered poor spoiler etiquette. No one stops reading in the middle of a headline. Save the spoiler until after we’ve clicked your article.

So please, friends. Be careful. Be wary. Don’t let your guard down, and enjoy with bated breath another season of Frank Underwood’s wily charm.

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