SFM ARTICLE: Generational Diversity & Your Content Strategy
I was born in 1970, making me part of Generation X.
The habits that I have subconsciously created around viewing video content are therefore a mix of habits that were formed during my childhood (before the internet, mobiles, VOD and streaming) and habits that I have been forced to pick up along the way as new platforms, devices and services have launched.
A lazy Saturday afternoon in front of the telly is still one of my favourite luxuries, mainly because the stress from general lack of time in the daily routine has a constant presence.
Being able to take a few hours out, to stop thinking, to stop planning and to just kick back and immerse myself in a fantasy world that has no impact or direct consequence on my real life, for me personally, has a wonderful sense of relaxation and escapism.
Today of course, our lives are oversaturated with 360º of ‘noise’ coming from hundreds of information and entertainment outlets every day.
Most of my career in digital entertainment has always had a component of consumer behaviour. I was fortunate enough to be involved with some of the first websites for FMCG brands, the first UK interactive TV ads with Sky and the first mobile video services.
It’s the consumer behaviour part that really fascinates me in this business of ‘digital entertainment’ and I firmly believe that building services that fall in line with natural human behaviours as they evolve within the digital landscape is absolutely key for creating success.
In today’s video entertainment world, there is a strong push/pull relationship between consumer and service provider. Both want to control the viewing experience, albeit for different reasons.
But as us oldies continue down the path in what feels like an ever increasing overload of information, our younger Millennials and iGen counterparts have been raised in this multifocal digital environment. They know nothing else.
As a result, they are showing themselves to be a more controlling element in HOW THEY want to receive information and entertainment.
They are ‘natives’ to this information overload, whereas Gen X are ‘immigrants’, in that we moved over to this space because it simply didn’t exist before.
As such, the younger generations have naturally adapted to be able to filter all the information in a more efficient and integrated way as part of their daily lives.
And this rise in consumer control over entertainment is having huge impacts on how entertainment is (or should be) offered.
A great example of this is short-form content. Generation X didn’t really have short-form content in our youth. Our main video formats were 20-30 minute single episode programming or movies.
The experience was passive – the programming was pre-scheduled and a ‘lean back’ experience; we just watched what was played to us and for many years in my childhood specifically, that was across a total of just 3 channels (BB1, BB2 and ITV).
Therefore, it seems logical that for Millennials and iGens, given that so much more information is pushed to them per day, short-form is a more natural video format for them to interact with.
The older generations will mock Millennials and iGens for having short attention spans, but if you look at it from the other side, this has been a necessity in order to filter the vast array of information pushed to them on a daily basis and pick out content they actually want to engage with.
As a consequence, there has been a sizable increase in recent years of incredibly creative ‘short-form’ content producers: they have spotted this shift and potential gap in the market. Their libraries will tend be under 10 minutes per episode and contextually targeted to the younger generations who prefer shorter videos anyway.
Companies offering branded influencer content are a great example of this.
Another good example of short-form behavioural content targeting is Kids content. Many titles from innovative new “edutainment” productions will be between 1 minute and 8 minutes long.
At our company Seriously Fresh Media, out of the 50 or so children’s titles that we offer, only 2 of them are over 10 minutes long for example.
Interestingly, after surveying around 30 of my Gen X friends last week as a comparison, the results were polar opposite of Millennial viewing trends, with 86% saying that long-form content was the preferred format (with box-sets being one of the 3 most popular genres).
Pleasingly, OTT was their platform of choice; accounting for 50% of the votes, but over 35% of them still used their TV set as the main device for viewing video content, (compared to only 25% of viewing on mobile, 21% on their computer and just 14% on tablets!)
So whilst Gen X are adopting new technologies like OTT services, the habits that we learned as children are still very present in our viewing habits today.
But in today’s entertainment world, we’re dealing with generational diversity when it comes to viewing trends and this should be a consideration in any content strategy.
Given that this article is in the OTT magazine, I’ll assume that most of us have a shared belief that OTT is set to become one of the main ‘go-to’ sources for video entertainment.
So based on the above rationales, whilst long-form still dominates the overall library, a successful OTT service with the largest demographic reach should always contain a strategic short-form collection as well.