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The UGC balancing act – but I’m still an advocate

Yesterday I blogged that TV was linear: I’d like to expand on that a bit and finish the thought.

When I left the TV world there was fairly little in the way of trying to solicit audience participation, other than asking for emails, running competitions and perhaps the odd photo. (I should reiterate here that I worked in TV News which has traditionally been “editor knows best” territory, although that’s all changing now.) I moved to the corporate online division, sitting across the whole business, so got to dabble in just about all content areas — sport, entertainment, arts, etc.  It was at the time when YouTube, blogging and the social networks were all starting to go crazy, so an exciting chance to do some strategic digital thinking about how to foster more audience engagement.

I’d better not go into the specifics for commercial confidentiality reasons but we measured a real uptick in online engagement with brands that genuinely embraced user generated video. This means they aired a call to action which they followed through by showing user video submissions on the TV. It created a cycle of engagement whereby viewers saw their videos were being broadcast and so were encouraged to submit even more videos. Ultimately there were all kinds of opportunities we explored to involve viewers in shows/with brands. (Sounds like an obvious process, but it can be quite a challenge persuading producers to spend valuable production time to create a call-to-action, sacrifice airtime to play the CTA and then put work into broadcasting submissions which they think is “loser generated content”, a term possibly coined by my esteemed colleague Mr Warren.) Commercial and other pressures make this all a fine balancing act.

These were earlyish attempts to transform TV from being linear to interactive, and we’re seeing more and more of it these days. Clearly some producers are getting it wrong (think phone-in scandals) but look at the use of social media now by the likes of the BBC.

With all these things, actions speak louder than words and it’s important for broadcasters to follow through on their calls to action. More on this in another posting…

All this brings me to wrap up with a few words on why this blog is called “Don’t Go Mad”. Well, it’s simply because with the rise of things like user generated content we can’t control everything anymore. Letting users/viewers/audiences get involved isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Don’t go mad when they have their say but figure out how to make it work in your favour.

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