April 17th, 2009
11:53 PM ET

Ashton Kutcher beats Malaria

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/04/17/ashton.cnn.twitter.battle/art.twitter.aplusk.from.jpg caption="Ashton Kutcher's Twitter feed has surpassed CNN's breaking-news feed in the race to 1 million followers."]
Barclay Palmer
AC360° Senior Producer

Which is bigger news: Kutcher beats CNN on Twitter, or President Obama goes to Mexico?

Ok, that sounds like a reductive and absurd question. But it's not, or not completely anyway, and here's why:

When a movie star and a news network persuade hundreds of thousands of people in less than a week to "follow" them on a hot, newish social networking site, as part of a charity competition – at the same time that the number of eyeballs on cable, network and print news outlets struggle even to hold steady despite millions of dollars in marketing – it says something.

Like what? Like a couple things:

Like a high-powered flashlight, it shows us very clearly where our society is – and is headed. It shows that young, mobile, digital people are THE driving force in business, technology, media and – as the election of President Obama and the size of the anti-tax tea parties on Wednesday showed – politics. No surprise, I know, but what a fast and glaring confirmation. We'd better pay attention.

Another thing: Kutcher's entertaining and bravado-fueled victory over @CNNbrk last night in signing up more than million Twitter "followers" – complete with low-grade, Youtube-distributed camera phone video of Kutcher ranting and goading Larry King while driving (so much for anti-cellphone driving laws) – also gets 11,000 mosquito nets to April 25th's 2nd annual World Malaria Day. Kutcher promised to send 10k mosquito nets if he won, and 1k if he lost. CNN promised the same.

That means thousands of real people will actually be better protected against a disease that infects and weakens more than 500 million people a year, and kills more than a million people. Despite all our advances in medicine, malaria still threatens 40% of the world's population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Those are stunning numbers, aren't they?

And it if takes watching Ashton Kutcher threatening to "ding dong ditch the house of Ted Turner" - Ding dong ditch means ring the doorbell and run - and then seeing Larry King, over at the other end of the demographic and media spectrum, railing with equal braggadocio "We will bury you!" to make people aware of the astounding continued threat of malaria, well, I can take it.

Besides, it was pretty entertaining way to make a point, wasn't it?

The only thing I still wonder is whether Larry King knew he was using the same words that then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev used in a famous moment at the United Nations at which in 1956 he interrupted the British prime minister's speech by banging his shoe on the desk and then loudly warning the U.S. that "We will bury you!" Larry's vow turned out to be as futile and mistaken as Khrushchev's, though without quite the same stakes.

Larry says he tweets. I guess I'll just have to get back onto Twitter and ask him.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Ashton Kutcher • Barclay Palmer • Larry King • Twitter
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Leigh Beauchamp Day

    Congratulations to all who took part in the Great Twitter Race. 11,000 nets is something to tweet about. Bravo all.

    April 18, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I enjoyed this unusual approach to doing something worthwhile for charity. At the same time the response to it may have said something about the internet and twitter and its use. I'm glad Ashton won – the bragging rights will last a while and might even spur another contest at some point with charity as the recipient of the win.

    April 17, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  3. Nicole

    I understand many people may not like Kutcher. Sometime I find him to be over the top but he did just get 11,000 nets sent to people who really need them. I realize it maybe a bit much but he got the job done. If only others were willing to match it & send more!
    Kudos to a worthy cause!!!

    April 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  4. suntak

    Plumer..wanna thank you for such an interesting view on the entire world event..Obama goes to Mexico then to Chavez. In my underline suspense could the prodigal son be returning from a angry managment class right into the summit?. Obama proudly prompts a prophetic insight into the world events which will soon be taking place. Chavez, repents and
    at will becomes no longer a threat to any worlds. I can show them where to install the nets..go to George Island In Florida to capture
    millions of mosquitos. I will follow your articles I so dearly enjoy your conversations. *suntak*

    April 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  5. Elzabeth

    When I am awakened at 2:19AM by a CNN "Breaking News Alert" , I want it to be for something serious....Twitter?? Come on, Anderson...Help us, Is this serious breaking news???

    I just wish Ashston would buy the Nets and not try and use it as a PR tool.

    April 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  6. Keith

    I used to like Erica and I was happy to hear that she was going to become a bigger part of 360, but she has really become smug. Last night's program was a perfect example of how she is with the Ashton Kutcher twitter. But considering she is a personal fav of the big guy, Anderson, she can get away with it, sittin' in the studio doin' nuttin' As long as Anderson has a job there, so does Erica.

    April 17, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  7. Kristin

    I love it when we can come together on a single objective. Cheers to Ashton / CNN for the connecting factor and getting others involved in the process! "Tweets to all, and to all a good night"

    April 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  8. Lynne

    I have no idea why Ashton Kutcher is even in the news.
    Honestly...I don't. I think there must be a lot of teen girls who
    are going ape over him...and then he does commercials..right ???
    So ...what's the big deal.

    April 17, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  9. Michelle

    I dunno, all it seems to show me is that young people will follow a moron anywhere (that's being proven time and time again these days). That mosquito nets got sent out in the process is a happy bi-product that, quite honestly, either outlet could have accomplished without the Twitter race and trust me when I say, you've informed a lot fewer of those followers than you think on the subject of Malaria with this PR stunt.

    April 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  10. Isabel Siaba

    The last thing:

    Twitter was founded in March 2006 and we can consider that only now had its boom!

    April 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  11. Sandy

    He's beginning to be a bit much to take. He's keeping himself in the public eye by manipulating the news with all this sensationalism. He and his wife are getting nuttier all the time.

    April 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  12. Isabel Siaba

    @ clarabelle

    The story began when @aplusk got up on last tuesday and "discovered" that had more than 800 thousand followers, somewhat less than the approximately 900 thousand of CNN.

    Impressed with their popularity, @aplusk posted a video on YouTube and he promised to make a "ding dong ditch" on Mr. Turner. CNN accepted the challenge and the rest of the story everybody knows. 🙂

    April 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  13. gayle mccauley Malden,Mass.

    There are MANY of us who have our eyes on CNN (Both here and on TV) For those of us who love "The News" ,the access to it ,in all forms is indeed for the greater good! So a little PR 'war' was waged between @aplusk and @kingsthings...all in fun,and look at the results! Thousands will be helped because of the words that people type on a keyboard...What a simple way to add pleasure to anyone's day .I love to spread joy and if my few typed words can help to do that,I consider myself very lucky : )

    April 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  14. Chris L, Lorton Virginia

    I was an active part of this race... granted I was rooting for Ashton, but that's because I always was a sucker for the underdog.. Well played on both sides of the game!

    April 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  15. clarabelle

    I've been curious to know how this campaign got started! Does anyone know? The whole thing was brilliant, in my opinion. I was initially unmoved by Ashton's part (nothing against Ashton, it's just my demographic, I suppose). Once I saw Larry King on air proclaiming that he'd "bury Kutcher" I was onboard and ran directly to my computer to follow CNN (and Larry) on Twitter!

    Mr. Palmer – yes, Larry tweets. Check him out!

    April 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  16. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Maybe society needs to grab their ears firmly and pull with all their might--then maybe the will see what is happening in the world of reality--but it gets ratings and generates revenues for both Twitter and the media-–and that is what it is all about--money-–not that there is anything wrong with that!

    April 17, 2009 at 11:59 am |