Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Jump London – and then some…

TV and Social Media

I spent an enjoyable morning courtesy of Broadcast the other week chewing the fat about the role of Social Media in relation to TV (and vice versa). They used the roundtable discussion as the basis of a feature which you can read here. Also involved, among others, were Deborah Rayner (Managing Editor, CNN, EMEA), Maz Nadjm (Head of Social Media, Ogilvy Group UK), Dan Patton (Director of Digital Media, MTV UK & Ireland) and Allan Blair (Director of Social at ad agency DDB), plus a few of my old muckers, namely James Kirkham (MD of Holler, who I worked with on Big Art Mob and Seven Days), Uktu Can (Creative Strategist at Mint Digital who’s helped recently with Quotables) and Rich Payne of Maverick TV (who I last toiled with on Embarrassing Bodies: Live). All fluently chaired by Lisa Campbell the Editor of Broadcast and observed by Conor Dignam (Group Editor, Broadcast). Here’s how the discussion was framed, followed by the stuff that flowed out of my gob on the subject…

Social media is now an essential tool for attracting and retaining an audience, according to the industry experts at Broadcast’s roundtable. Suzy Bashford reports on how the new technology is being used.

Social media is the buzzword of the moment. It has even overtaken porn as the most popular activity on the web, and the term is being bandied about as a catch-all phrase to sum up everything broadcasters do online. But what is it? Is it anything that allows the viewer to leave a comment on a website? Is it a marketing tool, as in Holler’s work around Skins? Or an entertainment in its own right, such as Bebo’s Kate Modern? A complementary addition to a TV show, as in Living’s Four Weddings? Or, as WPP boss Martin Sorrell said recently, is social media simply “advanced letter writing”?

AG: Social media has got different modes: the talking mode, the listening mode, the talking and listening mode, the collaboration mode. That means it’s difficult to co-ordinate in an organisation.

For the people listening to conversations in Channel 4’s Research & Insight department, social media is fantastic, free audience research of the best kind, because it’s unprompted and spontaneous. We’ve got other people using social media for customer service and showing that we’re listening and improving because of what our customers are telling us. Then we’ve got people using social media in talking mode, for promotion and marketing.

For me, social media is about collaboration, participation and storytelling. What is most exciting about social media in our industry is that it now enables a two-way conversation.

How well are organisations integrating these different modes?

AG: It feels chaotic for plenty of organisations because they haven’t really sat down and analysed who is doing what and why. We’re conscious of the different ways we are using social media and we’re thinking about different strategies for co-ordinating it, so we don’t dampen the energy but ensure we’re all moving in the same direction.

What have you learned from experience about leveraging social media?

AG: As a broadcaster you’ve got to constantly ask: ‘What am I bringing to the party?’ People will have these conversations in their own spaces, in their own ways. So what we’ve been doing with a lot of commissioning is thinking how social media can impact the editorial. Take Surgery Live – people could ask a question via social media to the surgeon who’s working live on TV, and within 90 seconds they could hear their question being put by the presenter to the surgeon. Only the broadcaster can bring that to the party. With Embarrassing Bodies Online, we gave up editorial control entirely to the users.

With Seven Days, working with Holler, we brought another relationship into play, giving viewers the ability to influence documentary contributors in real life. We created a site that became the focus of where the characters actually interact. Viewers can influence contributors’ thinking by going to the site. We’ve ended up creating strange new interactions between media and real life. Again, that’s the joy of being a broadcaster – you can bring something special to the party and really add value.

What happens to your social media strategy around a programme when you’re not on air?

AG: That’s one of the great functions of social media, it helps you deal with the troughs between broadcast periods, particularly when you’ve got something popular and returning such as Skins.

What pitfalls should you watch out for in social media?

AG: I was in a cab during one of the election live TV debates and was following it on Twitter. What struck me was how incredibly sheepish the behaviour was. The same was evident in the recent immigration discussion online on The X Factor. You see people piling into a Facebook group that then does nothing. So you have to bear in mind that social media can at times be amazingly superficial and sometimes, ultimately, meaningless.

4 differences between a podcast and a radio programme

At the one day Future:Content conference put on this week by London design outfit It’s Nice That the medium of Audio was covered by Francesca Panetta of The Guardian (podcasts) and (in her spare time) Hackney Podcast. Listening to a recent podcast of hers capturing Hackney at night I was reflecting – being a huge lover of radio (I listen to over 20 hours a week) – on what’s the difference between a podcast and a radio programme…

  1. A podcast does not have to fill airtime or a specific slot length – that means the subject-matter can define the shape of the content
  2. It does not have to appear with the exact regularity of, say, a weekly slot – so you could make more of an event of its appearance
  3. You have deliberately chosen to listen to a podcast, it’s not background or encountered by chance
  4. One that Francesca placed great emphasis on, a podcast is usually right in your ears (i.e. often they are consumed on earphones) – so sound design is that much more important and impactful.

I’ve made some radio in my time, some arts and music stuff for BBC World Service and Radio 2 with a variety of inspiring people from John Peel (on vinyl/records) to Jonathan Miller (on mirrors in the arts), loved the experience of that very special medium, and really want to carve out some time to do a bit of podcasting this coming year. I also want to pick up again on my Songlines project from next month.

I was covering Future:TV on the day. I focused on the re-socialising of TV through social media. It was an honour to be sandwiched between designer Neville Brody and Deyan Sudjic, Director of The Design Museum. I’ve had Deyan’s book Cult Objects on my bookshelf since 1987 and taking it out again on the eve of the conference it looked very much like a product of the 80s with its watches and pens, Filofaxes and objects of sleek matt blackness. My beloved Olympus XA2 pocket camera features on page 63, a happy matt black blast from the past, haven’t seen it around the house in a dog’s age. (Nor for that matter have I seen my copies of issues 1 to 10 of The Face, but they’re bound to be in the attic.)

Neville Brody arrived fresh from the student cuts demo in and around Westminster. He showed photos he’d just taken, including a placard saying “I still hate Thatcher” (also very 80s) which brought a smile to the lips. He reflected on how the current student generation has forgotten how to get angry and protest, how the day’s events felt like some kind of reawakening, and he brought with him an old school energy and rage at the assault on the Future:Contentmakers, the designers and artists of tomorrow. There’s something not right, was my first thought of the day as I walked down to the tube heading for the gathering at Shoreditch Studios for a day of interesting reflections on where Content is going, not right at all about addressing a problem of excessive debt by starting people out in life with excessive debt. The student fees question has brought out the worst in the LibDems (speaking as one who helped vote them in, in as much as they were voted in). It came out yesterday that, as Chief of Staff, Danny Alexander wrote about putting “clear yellow water” between the LibDems and the other parties on the issue of student fees – did he forget that clear yellow water is otherwise known as a streak of piss?

 

Future:Content summarised on It’s Nice That design blog

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