Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A comment on a column by Brian Solis

Following is a long segment from an interesting column by Brian Solis.  Following that is a much shorter response.  

A comment on a column by Brian Solis

Segment of Brian’s column:
Today, we’re seeing experimentation across the screens with strategies that invite audience participation. Some live shows now run social media tickers during programs. Other live events feature tweets and also live statistics based on social media analytics. Some programs are integrating community participation into content. Others are using social media to tell supporting stories between seasons or airing special webisodes to keep interest and anticipation high between on air programs. Apps are also emerging to open new windows between programs and mobile audiences.
So what?
What we need to do for any of these initiatives to work is to align them with a higher purpose and a vision for what the new relationship looks like between viewer and the program, the viewer and the program’s elements, storyline and characters/roles, between the viewer and the screen, and between viewers and other viewers.
You must first answer these questions…
What is the objective and the purpose of your social TV initiative?
What kind of relationship are you striving for and how will you enliven it through each channel in a way that’s not only engaging, but also relevant?
What would the “Tweet heard around the world” look like and what is the social spark that would trigger activity?
What does the experience look like on a mobile phone, tablet, PC, and a TV? Meaning, what does the second and third screen experience look like? Design it and also design it back into the first screen programming.
Programming is just the beginning. Advertising also has a new opportunity to engage in a more meaningful way.
Rather than simply buying seconds and using spots to promote social media campaigns, visits to Facebook pages or rallies to Tweet a branded hashtag (brandtag), think about it as a way to tell a story that can live beyond the spot or beyond the campaign. Old Spice learned that its commercials were too successful to treat as traditional campaigns that would start and stop. Viewers don’t “turn off” so why wouldn’t a great story continue to live on across distributed platforms where consumers are more than willing to engage?
Now, Old Spice hosts an ongoing experience where its campaign has become a transmedia experience that perseveres across online, broadcast and social channels. The story, the product, the series keeps viewers engaged. The series also strives to make consumers part of the story where custom videos are created based on input and participation.
Product placement is also open for reinvention. By making products or brands part of the story, advertisers have new opportunities for contextualized storytelling across multiple platforms and the ability to host new interactions, build communities or drive desired outcomes. Everything of course is based on the story advertisers wish to tell and the experience they wish to delivery. The point is that advertising doesn’t just have to end nor does it have to be limited to a finite engagement in new networks and platforms. Storytelling and consumer engagement are infinite if they’re compelling, delightful and shareable. But then again, it takes a different vision supported by an irresistible purpose or intention.
Through experimentation, we are seeing what’s possible. However, networks, advertisers, and producers, must think beyond technology and rethink experiences. By not focusing on the experience or defining the nature of relationships, we fall to mediumalism a condition where we place inordinate weight on the technology of any medium rather than amplifying platform strengths to deliver desired experiences, activity, and outcomes.
The future of Social TV is not yet written nor has it been broadcast. It takes vision. It takes creativity and imagination. It takes innovation. Most importantly, it takes the architecture of experiences to engage, enchant and activate viewers across multiple screens. A hashtag is not a second or third screen experience. Right now, viewers are taking to multiple screens without any cues or direction. What it is you want them to do or say requires explicit design for each screen. Doing so will inspire more informed and creative ideas through the entire broadcast ecosystem, including the original programming on the main screen.

My comment:

Interesting. He is commenting on the distinct uses and gratifications of the related media and realizes that new media and new uses for that media should lead to new forms of content. That content has not materialized yet.

There are a number of variables that need to be accounted for as a generation embraces the new media and "experts" determine the next big thing in terms of medium and programming. Sophistication of the content, storyline development, ability to gain a large audience in an increasingly fractured marketplace are all variables with a wide range of potential execution success.

The term "social media" seems to limit the perceived uses of the media.  Traditional uses and gratifications research looks at issues such as the public's desire to gain orientation to the world around them through the media offering of surveillance of the world, advice on how to deal with issues and developing quasi-relationships with media persona.  Will those traditional uses of the media change with new media or will content providers have to find new ways to fill the old needs?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Maybe Television Deserves to Die

Maybe traditional television deserves to die.  “Traditional” used to just mean broadcast.  But I am lumping basic cable nets in here too.  Television has done so much to take the joy out of television.  There is no dramatic continuity, no freedom from lower third ads that remind you it is fiction you are viewing, no extended scenes where we get to explore a character through his or her reactions. 

My wife and I were watching “The Devil Wears Prada” on ABC some time ago.  I had not seen it before, but my wife was able to tell me what got cut out so I could understand the movie better.  And we had lots of opportunities to talk.  There was a 2-4 minute commercial break after every 5-8 minutes of program.  Any moment that had a risk of me caring about the characters was broken up by yet another commercial break.

Watching a show on Bravo or another cable net means having a dramatic moment interrupted by a lower third promo for another show.  Again, if for some reason, I get caught up in the show and start caring about characters, a lower third promo reminds me I am watching fiction on television and I should not get caught up in the characters.  Bravo commercials say, “Watch what happens.”  I did.  I give up. 

David Kelley, producer of L.A. Law  to Harry’s Law, Picket Fences to Ally McBeal has not quite given up.  But he is pretty annoyed.  In a recent interview with Tavis Smiley he said, “When I started on “L.A. Law,” I think our shows were 48 minutes plus some, with four acts. We’re now down to 41 minutes, six acts, in a one-hour presentation, and it’s absurd. With big, loud commercials coming in every six and seven minutes it’s become incumbent upon us to be noisy, to pound, pound, pound, much more difficult to do the slower-paced, emotional stories that build over time.
It’s just very, very frustrating to cut to a commercial every six, seven or eight minutes.”
Watching “Fringe” means five or six fake, contrived mini-climaxes each preceding a long commercial break.  This pretty much separates the viewer from the emotional connection we have with the show.  I want to love “Fringe.”  The powers that be that run television make loving a show so much of a challenge.
Couldn’t the networks, both cable and broadcast, make television better by cutting back on commercials?  Fewer commercials might mean less tune-out during commercial breaks.  Less opportunity to sample other shows or getting caught up in Weather Channel (or is that only me that gets caught up in TWC?)
Fewer commercials might mean you can charge more per spot since perhaps the advertiser can be promised more eyeballs and less message clutter.  The answer to how to make television better will never be by giving the audience more reason to eliminate emotional involvement and making it easier to watch or maybe even do something else.
If television does die, to be replaced by mobile media, it may not be because they couldn’t sell advertising.  It could be because they sold too much.