Capturing tomorrow’s audience

I’ve written previously about social networking and how tomorrow’s audiences will be vastly different from those we serve today. One goal may then be to build and adapt our facilities to move as expeditiously into that arena as possible. Let’s review some research on social networking and those who compose these general groups to better attract them to our stations.

A research project titled “Creating & Connecting/Research and Guidelines on Online Social — and Educational — Networking,” by the National School Boards Association and funded by Microsoft, Verizon and News Corp., revealed some astonishing facts about young viewers. The bottom line for broadcasters is summarized in the report’s first sentence: “Online social networking is now so deeply embedded in the lifestyles of tweens and teens that it rivals television for their attention...

…Nine- to 17-year-olds report spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they spend watching television. Among teens, that amounts to about 9 hours a week on social networking activities, compared to about 10 hours a week watching TV.

Students are hardly passive couch potatoes online. Beyond basic communications, many students engage in highly creative activities on social networking sites — and a sizeable proportion of them are adventurous nonconformists who set the pace for their peers.

Overall, an astonishing 96 percent of students with online access report that they have ever used any social networking technologies, such as chatting, text messaging, blogging and visiting online communities, such as Facebook, MySpace and services designed specifically for younger children, such as Webkins and the chat sections of

Eighty-one percent say they have visited a social networking Web site within the past three months, and 71 percent say they use social networking tools at least weekly.”

Other research confirms the trend of increased use of social media sites. “Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visits social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10 percent of all Internet time,” according to a new Nielsen report “Global Faces and Networked Places.” According to the report, that percentage is likely to increase as former TV viewers spend even more of their available time on social networks and blogging sites. This usage is growing more than three times faster than overall Internet growth.

So, you may say, but what about the ads?

The research firm comScorereleased a report last week showing that social networking sites carried more than 20 percent of all Internet display ad views, with the social sites MySpace and Facebook occupying the top two sites.

In the month of July, MySpace totaled 30 million ad impressions with a 9.2 share. Facebook had 26.8 million ad impressions and an 8.2 share. Together, MySpace and Facebook delivered more than 80 percent of the ads among sites in the social networking category.

“Social networking sites now account for one out of every five ads people view online. Because the top social media sites can deliver high reach and frequency against target segments at low cost, it appears that some advertisers are eager to use social networking sites as a new advertising delivery vehicle,” said Jeff Hackett, comScore senior VP.

Now, are you interested in attracting these viewers to your TV station?

Content for everyone, everywhere

Let’s first assign some terms to those who use social media. While there are hundreds of descriptions used to describe users of various social networks, we’ll use the six categories developed by Forrester Research.

The year 2009 will be looked back upon as the time social media blossomed. The key reason broadcasters need to examine social media is simply because it’s another competitor. (See paragraph two above. You now have more competition.)

Today, according to Forrester Research, more than four of five Americans are active in the production or consumption of some form of social media. Let’s look closer at the demographics of this audience.

The research firm divides the social media audience into six categories:

Creators — those who publish a blog, webpages, videos, post music or stories

Critics — those who post ratings/reviews of products and services, comment on blogs and contribute to online forums

Collectors — those who rely on RSS feeds, vote on Web sites and ad tags to webpages or photos

Joiners — those who maintain profiles on social networking sites and visit other social sites

Spectators — those who read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch Web video, read forums and customer reviews

Inactives — those people do none of the above

Despite early predictions that the development of the new Web would see people producing their own newscasts, Web publishing and uploading, the researchers at Forrester disagree. They say the issue is “temperament, not technology”.

The top two categories of users, creators and critics, have not seen significant growth. The number of folks in the critic category has fallen, according to Forrester, primarily because of the explosion of social network sites like Facebook and others.

The joiner category has grown to 51percent of online Americans, up from 35 percent last year. Experts say this is because of easy-to-use social sites like Facebook and MySpace. Has your audience increased by 16 percent?

Those who primarily just consume social media, the spectators, has reached 73 percent of American Web users. If you, like me, thought that social media would be a brief fad, we’re wrong. It’s here to stay, say the experts.

Eyeball competition

As your customers expand their use of technology — primarily to control what, when and where they access content — your job gets tougher. Its’ no longer sufficient to produce two daily 30-minute programs, one for 5 p.m. and an updated version for 10 p.m., call them local news and go home.

Now, you have to produce and update the content continually throughout the day. Those packaged stories must be delivered to your station’s Web site, perhaps to mobile users and then slotted into a highly flexible rundown for use in the traditional 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.

If your station has yet to embrace the delivery of all content to all platforms, you’re already behind the competition. It’s time to catch up.

What is your station doing with online programming?