The top 100 TV shows have Twitter accounts. Every new theatrical release has a Facebook page. Heck, a quarter of TV ads now proudly display a URL or
handle. Marketers and publishers are racing to augment their content with social arms and legs.
And from the Olympics to the Election, it is inarguable that social media has changed how we interact with content. But what if we’ve been overstating that
change? What if social media is just the garnish to the content main course: enhancing its presentation and appeal, but not fundamentally changing the consumer/content dynamic? What
if social is not a driver, but rather a casualty of shifts in consumer behavior?
Here’s what I mean. Social media has been heralded as the savior for “live,” linear television. Sure, program-related Twitter feeds and Facebook posts are a
blast, but work only if consumed concurrently with the original airing of content. And consumers are resigned to that tradeoff: watching linear TV to get the augmented social
But I argue that that paradigm is short-lived. If we’ve learned
anything, it’s that consumers are what/where/when. Technology has taught them that they need not compromise. If they can time-shift their content, why not their social
“commentary track” as well?
Some companies are already starting to play with
this concept. The IntoNow app recognizes a show whenever it’s played, and incorporates shifted-time commentary. Bravo replays its shows with a “Pop-up Video”-like social
feed. Consumers will get a taste. And they’ll want more.
Twitter will need to revamp their offerings to this new synched reality of “Social on My Terms.” Social without content is less than worthless. Twitter sees the writing on the
wall: they’re pivoting to focus on “events.” Facebook is desperate to get advertisers to create compelling content to keep fans returning. But if they continue to
ignore the reality of time-shifting, the social element will be yesterday’s newspaper.
Increasingly, consumers are coming home, firing up their DVRs, and curling up in front of their favorite shows. And they’re saying to themselves, “why is it that I can watch
my content when and where I want, and on whatever platform I want – but I can’t get a relevant comment stream?”
Content-creators need not cede the answer to social networks. Publishers have earned the right to deliver this experience – after all, they own the
content. Social platforms have been extraordinarily successful in inserting themselves between the consumer and the content. In the future of media, smart publishers will cut out the
middleman and build direct, lucrative relationships with willing, socially engaged consumers.
Ben Winkler Chief Digital Officer, OMD