Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Social Media Beats Television For Teens

Once upon a time it seemed nothing would pry young eyes away from their television screens.

Television executives surely long for those good ol' days, especially as more recent surveys show that teens are spending more time online, posting comments, communicating and sharing with their friends via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube than they do in front of their TV.

A new research poll conducted in the UK by Click Consult reports that 65 percent of people between the ages of 16-24 say they spend more time online than they do watching television. The numbers are not quite as high with other age groups but the trend is the same: more people prefer being entertained online than by television.

This should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has been monitoring the trends, or anyone who is alive and participating in the world around them today. Those 900 million Facebook fans don't live on another planet-they live right here on Earth and they represent your family, friends, neighbors and of course, teenagers.

The reasons for this trend are fairly obvious to me. Although cable television introduced a plethora of new channels and new shows, the content itself has hardly changed. The same shows are constantly being re-worked, re-cast and re-shown as if they represent something new, while the act of watching television itself has not changed at all: we sit, we watch, we yell at the screen.

Shows like American Idol did introduce an element of viewer participation, but it was a far cry from true interaction. Also, despite the rise of online video consumption television show producers have done little to capitalize on it. This accounts for the lack of original network produced programming available via sites like YouTube or Vimeo.

Networks have also failed to capitalize on the trend toward digital entertainment via their own web sites. Shows are only offered in limited release; no added bonus material, no reason for watchers to tune in there other than just to catch up on episodes they missed, assuming the episodes are even available.

What is happening with television is very similar to what happened with the print news industry: they failed to recognize a trend and allowed competitors who once never existed to surpass them, filling the void they had left. Print news complained that revenue streams simply weren't there (online) so they ignored the entire system.

Now it's obvious to everyone that was a Big Mistake.

If television executives are savvy they will recognize time is working against them. They should take heed of the lessons learned by the print news industry and get busy finding a way to make the web work for them. Innovation immediately comes to mind, but even making more shows available online would be a step in the right direction.

And for heaven's sake, stop ignoring social media!!

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