- Monday, March 23rd, 2009
It is no secret that the online video audience is on the rise. Audiences are leaving behind traditional digital broadcast for choice, the ability to play, and the ability to customize their experience across a sea of interactive touch points. According to Nielsen Online, 116.7 million unique viewers watched streaming video in December, 73 percent of active Web Users. According to comScore there was a 13% surge in December for U.S. online video viewing, a 16% spike in the French online video audience in the past year. In terms of where online users are going to watch video, YouTube remains the king, however other properties are steadily gaining their share, notably Yahoo, Fox Interactive Media and Hulu. As viewers change where they view video, so changes how they consume and interact with video.
Recently the upcoming CBS television series Harper’s Island, scheduled to air April 9th, stepped into the interactive realm to draw us curious online content hungry media suckers into its domain of mystery with Harper’s Globe. Without going into too much background, the Globe is an online supplement or prequel to the broadcast show Harper’s Island. It revolves around Robin Matthews, a recent college grad. She takes a job to digitize the islands newspaper archives as well as build a social network on the papers website. After sorting through boxes of dusty articles she comes across a story of a hack and slash maniac that made everyone squeal like a stuck pig once upon a time.
The content thus far is captivating, but what makes the Harper Globe’s interactive foray a step above past attempts to provide supplemental online content is the approach. Having launched weeks before the air of the TV series, the site presents a truly social web series. The shows cast provides fresh content on a daily basis, videos, and blog updates. Fans can join the shows social network and follow the pack in a web of murderous intrigue. Posting content, commenting and interacting with the shows characters. If that is not enough, you can even investigate a little deeper into Robin’s past on her college blog. What I dig most is that the creators of this interactive endeavor were smart enough to wrap up daily video posts on weekly basis. Slapping on a tidy bow so those who don’t have time to follow every snippet or just jump on the wagon after the ship sailed can be brought up to speed. No one likes to feel alienated, unless you feed off anger and self-pity. For better or worse, I believe for the better, Harper’s Globe is a sign of what lies ahead for today’s demanding audiences.
Now that I have given my love, I have a few bones to pick with my crow beak. First off, where is the Facebook Connect or MySpace ID? One new subscriber could mean hundreds more exposed to the CBS campaign. When it comes to community ventures outside of the established behemoth online social networks you are already strapped with a cinder block. When your looking to build online community, the last thing you want to add is more layers. What was that password again?
Before I wipe my mouth I have one last piece of meat to pick. Rule number one, be honest and genuine to your community. Begging makes me want to gag. After joining the community and consuming the content I felt the need to be an active participant. Low and behold, I found pleas on the “Fresh Start” trailer for comments on YouTube, a call for a “Comment Party”, from the Globe’s cast and creators. When I checked out YouTube I found a gaggle of spammers, the same group of viewers commenting over and over again. If the content is intriguing, if the interactivity makes the user feel like they are active participants in the story the virus will spread and the herd will follow. No need for begging, no need to create a perception of dishonesty. It stains the experience, cracking the walls of perceived reality in a blatant, dishonest marketing attempt. “…no meepers here, just me spamming cause I’m bored.” The CAKE is a LIE.
What Harper’s Globe gives fans is a new way to interact, a new way to become immersed into the Harper’s Island mystery. It is not a new idea, but it feeds the need for those who won’t settle with passive entertainment consumption, allowing them to engage, possibly even discover a clue. It is a tool for brands to increase recognition, a tool to grow and nurture your fan base, whether or not there is a season 2. Will all online video be interactive? Is Harper’s Globe next gen TV, TV 2.0? No, the future of television holds a lot more in store for its audience. For now, a little bit of heroin goes a long way.