There is a need for brands to shift their conversations with their audiences from the traditional passive to the empowering digital active. By transforming how people interact with media and platforms, businesses can redefine audience innovation.
01 February 2021 • 4 min read
Photograph: Hulki Okan Tabak/Unsplash
The passive audience. This is the traditional user who watches a television series, consumes content and reads books. The individual that passively absorbs the entertainment delivered to them from multiple media, without stepping into the worlds and brands surrounding the content. This passive experience has its place, but for organisations looking to engage with brands and people, the interactive experience is the next generation of content consumption.
To create an active experience, we can embed active entertainment options into an ecosystem with multiple touchpoints. For example, experiences that ask the audience to watch a show and respond to it in real time, to take action. We can take the potential of converging media and digital capabilities and weave these into an interactive tapestry that redefines how audiences watch television, use devices, and access digital platforms.
Gaming is the key benchmark in defining the active audience. The Fortnite experience pulls the participants into a game and a world that interacts with them across multiple levels and media.
We can look at interactivity on a spectrum. The most basic level on the interactivity spectrum is the one that most people are used to: sit on the sofa, watch the movie and do little more. It is not expected that the audience will do anything to further the plot, change the dynamic or think beyond the story presented to them. This is content on a plate that’s easy to digest.
On the second level of interactivity, you find more digital connections to the content. There are interactive guides that pull the user in, offer more information about the content, and serve up additional content ideas for the future. Platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix deliver on this premise superbly, introducing new layers to the content from actor profiles to recommended viewing. Consumers can do something more than just watch.
But this is not yet the active audience level, the one that will truly captivate the consumer. For this, very high levels of personalisation are required. At this level, people don’t just want to watch the broadcast; they want to watch what they’re interested in with personalised camera views and the option to move to the extreme interactive spectrum.
Gaming is the key benchmark in defining the active audience.
The extreme level of interaction is already present within the gaming sector. Platforms such as Twitch allow viewers to cheer on their favourite gamers, to personalise their experiences, and to engage with the games on a visual level.
Personalisation can be taken into the television space, for example, by connecting apps and services to the content. Viewers can use an integrated app or mobile interface to find out what music is playing in the show, find out more about a specific actor, or find out if there’s a sequel. The value to the streaming platform or the music provider lies in the immediacy of the interaction. The action takes place on a single platform that integrates all these elements into a cohesive ecosystem.
This action re-engages the audience and keeps them coming back. The innovations that lie within this are borderless, especially now.
The pandemic has stuck people in front of screens and immersed them in digital devices. Because of this, we’ve seen an evolution in customer behaviour, and we should now see the industry innovating on the edges of what customers want. What about a show that allows viewers to chat with one another while watching, giving them the option to vote for their favourite characters? This interaction takes ordinary shows out of the passive realm and into the active by allowing viewers to participate in the experience.
We can also use the interactive capabilities to find out valuable insights, such as which actors viewers prefer and what shows they like to watch. We can then branch these narratives outwards into content that will allow for even richer audience engagement.
Viewers can use an integrated app or mobile interface to find out what music is playing in the show, find out more about a specific actor, or find out if there’s a sequel. The value to the streaming platform or the music provider lies in the immediacy of the interaction. The action takes place on a single platform that integrates all these elements into a cohesive ecosystem.
In the sports industry, live stream events are still a core part of the business model. These events are an incredible opportunity for broadcasters to kickstart active audience engagement. In Japan, broadcasters have already used carefully designed broadcasting and digital techniques to allow viewers to participate in live sporting events. Viewers can become part of a soccer game through an experimental fan voting system, complete with leaderboards, bonuses and cheering systems. The formula used to hook audiences for shows like Britain’s Got Talent was repurposed for sporting events, allowing viewers to influence events. If the audience is in the game, then they can become a part of the game.
Interactive concepts used in talent shows are becoming more widespread and interconnected. Viewers don’t just push a button during the competition. They can use other tools to participate in environments and influence events. This interactivity means that brands can rebuild old content, leveraging it for further interactive engagement by connecting it with fresh content and interactive digital systems. Apps are also a critical part of the process. By creating app ecosystems you can expand the concept of interactivity within your platform and business model, allowing your audience to do more and experience more across multiple media.
Workers who don’t have a clear understanding of what their businesses are trying to achieve will never feel they are a vital part of your business.
This is where monetisation comes in. As the platforms expand and interconnect, and the experiences become richer and more personalised, so do monetisation opportunities.
Businesses can engage more closely with target audiences so they can curate the content they deliver, using virtual ads, dynamic ads, affiliate marketing and e-commerce click-throughs. In addition to improved audience engagement and enhanced brand loyalty, the active audience introduces greater room for financial benefit and growth.
What’s even more exciting is that as the traditional ways of consuming content are broken down and enhanced, innovation and development will continue to find new ways of repurposing the content and its consumption. From augmented reality to the tap on the app to the personalised journey across multiple platforms, the active audience reality is here, and it is here to stay.
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