Technology was a crucial factor in this change, including DVDs, TiVo, and the emergence of a vibrant online TV-fan community. ‘The idea that viewers would want to watch—and rewatch—a television series in strict chronology and collectively document their discoveries with a group of strangers was once laughable, but is now mainstream,’ Mittell writes in “Complex TV.” Television was no longer an ephemeral experience, to be watched and discarded: it could be collected, shared, and analyzed.
And few things make me happier than collecting, sharing and analyzing quality (and often not-so-quality) television.
Business Insider editor-in-chief Henry Blodget has picked up on the fact that TV is starting to go through the Internet growing pains that print newspapers and magazines have long begun to experience. The Internet has changed the way we consume the news. Now, it’s really starting to impact the way we watch TV.
Gone are the days where we associate a particular network with a stellar night of TV (think NBC’s classic Thursday night lineup of Friends and Seinfeld). We now consume TV in piecemeal form: an episode of 30 Rock on Hulu, the entire series of Mad Men on iTunes, a few episodes of New Girl saved to a DVR. These shows are divorced from their network and instead are being associated with the platform on which we view them. The platform has overtaken the network.
I would note here that one network that has made a successful transition to thinking of themselves less as a network and more as a platform is HBO. HBO realized early on that their paying customers want to consume content on a variety of different devices - TV, phone, iPad. When you pay for HBO, you can then watch all of HBO’s shows (including shows that were on-air years ago) through HBOGo. For this and other reasons (high-quality programming, subscription base, clever marketing), HBO has avoided the dreaded divorce between series and network. Games of Thrones is HBO’s Game of Thrones; Boardwalk Empire is HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
TV and print should really start learning from one another because the divisions between them are slowly eroding. Media is converging into a cross-platform experience. TV shows must have a written blog; print news must have video. All must be agnostic about devices and platforms.
I wrote recently on The Economist’s Lean Back 2.0 blog about the rise of the “second-screen.” People are increasingly sitting down to watch TV with their tablet or mobile phone in hand. This growing trend threatens to upend the traditional TV business, but also holds enormous potential for creative magazine apps. For example,
When I recently spoke with Annette King, chief executive at OgilvyOne UK, she reiterated this shift toward second-screen advertising, offering a tangible (and delicious) example. Let’s say that Jamie Oliver is making a special truffle recipe on his television show. King imagined an ad where you might “use your tablet to find out where truffles grow in the world or how to make Jamie’s recipe.”
This intersection of leaning forward and leaning back might have profound implications for the publishing industry. Could magazine apps start to complement TV shows? I could imagine a travel magazine partnering with the Travel channel to offer viewers articles and trip recommendations. I’d certainly watch Anthony Bourdain travel to Lisbon while simultaneously looking up the best Lisbon eateries on my Travel and Leisure iPad app.
Or, for the more civic-minded audience, perhaps the New York Times could develop an app for use during presidential debates. While viewers watch the debate on TV, they can use the app to look up more information on where a candidate stands on a certain issue, input their own thoughts on how persuasive a candidate is sounding, and see other opinions come streaming in.
How do you think publishers could capitalize on the trend? What kind of magazine apps would you like to see in the future?
I’d love to hear some more ideas for fun complementary magazine apps. Let your creative juices flow on the Lean Back 2.0 blog.
This post originally appeared on The Economist’s Lean Back 2.0 blog.
In a previous post, I discussed the “rise of the mass intelligent” and its implications for high-quality media. It’s increasingly acceptable to be a nerd - or, at least, to proudly enjoy things normally relegated to the world of the nerdy. Andrew Rashbass, chief executive of The Economist, has expounded on this high demand for intelligent media, citing examples such as the popularity of operas screened at movie theatres and the long lines for the recent Leonardo DaVinci exhibition at the National Gallery in London. All of this bodes especially well for The Economist, which brings intelligent content to a mass audience.
As someone with strong “nerd” tendencies, I have been reflecting on other examples of this mass intelligence phenomenon. One obvious candidate for nerdiest show currently on TV is HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” based on the popular books by George R.R. Martin. For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s a medieval fantasy set in the fictional world of Westeros and featuring dozens of main characters and complicated plot lines. There are warring families, power struggles, fantastical creatures, aristocratic lineages and (quite a lot of) sexual intrigue.
Prior to its debut on television, “Game of Thrones” already had a legion of loyal fans devoted to the books. I think it’s safe to say that most of these devotees fall into the nerd demographic. What the TV show has managed to do so well is to nurture these superfans, while also attracting a larger mass audience. And perhaps one of the reasons for the success of “Game of Thrones” is that HBO recognizes the mass intelligent demographic. The show has not been “dumbed down” from the books. Instead, HBO has capitalized on the series’ intelligence and complexities.
Take, for instance, what happens when you watch “Game of Thrones” on your iPad through the HBOGo platform. If you want to enhance your experience watching the show, you can follow along on an intricate map of the entire Westeros universe. If you’re confused about the dizzying array of characters and their corresponding family allegiances, you can pull up a guide to help keep them straight. All of these extras are guaranteed to make nerds like me even more excited about the show.
The success of Game of Thrones may thus hold a lesson for many publishers and content creators. Don’t ignore the nerdier aspects of your brand; embrace them and enhance them. The mass intelligent will thank you.
What other TV shows, magazines, movies and events do you think capture this mass intelligence phenomenon? Respond in the comments section below, or tweet your response to @LeanBack2_0 using the hashtag #massintell.
Image: “Game of Thrones,” as experienced on my iPad.