December 8, 2016
The mobile revolution is a popular topic and many major media and entertainment outlets are becoming a part of it by developing a mobile-first approach to content distribution.
When mobile devices first appeared on the market, they were largely used for communication: texting, calling, rudimentary games and very limited applications. Since then, companies have begun creating content exclusively for mobile devices, which has changed the landscape dramatically.
Unlike the “good old days” where there were only three networks and one basic device on which to view content, users now consume content on a variety of devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets and gaming devices, sometimes all at the same time.
Part of the conundrum early on centered around display issues; for quite a while, developers struggled with the aspect of the mobile screen display being nothing more than an extension of the desktop experience, which meant a lot of pinching and zooming in to see the content on a standard web page. In addition, using the navigation menu was tricky – users had to tap the link in just the right place to get to the desired page.
Finally, developers realized that things had to change, and thus started creating responsive websites in which the website responded to the dimensions of any given screen. As the screens narrowed, so did the presentation of the content, from wide horizontal desktop layouts to narrow vertical layouts.
Broadcast Media Takes Note
Until recently, television networks have been slow to embrace the migration of content from traditional programming on television to allow their shows to be streamed on the internet. Part of this issue was due largely to the inability to measure and monetize viewership. Another aspect was how to compensate actors, producers and writers according to union guidelines.
With Apple leading the charge to create apps to expand the user experience beyond texting, placing calls and automobile navigation, there has been an explosion of apps targeted toward not only general content consumption, but also appealing to niche audiences as well.
ABC led the charge, with the rest of the networks following suit. Not only did networks have to consider sharing their existing content across various platforms, but also create additional exclusive content, referred to as “webisodes”. The purpose of the webisodes was to create brand loyalty. Early attempts failed miserably because of the quality of the programming, but now the quality has improved. At first, these shows were just extensions of pre-existing shows, but now, there’s more original content, such as ABC’s “Boondoggle” with Ty Burell (“Modern Family”).
Following the success of the ever-expanding streaming content companies like Netflix, Hulu, and even Amazon, traditional cable outlets such as HBO have embraced streaming technologies on mobile devices. Some require subscriptions to cable providers; some do not. Additionally, apps such as Fite TV have been created to satisfy fans of Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing and Professional Wrestling. Even Netflix recently announced the capability of downloading content to mobile devices.
Through the development of these apps, content providers have learned that content is king and the user interface design is secondary. While there was a time when mobile device content had to be short form to accommodate short attention spans, that is no longer the case. Consumers regularly watch entire episodes and even movies on their mobile devices.
Audience engagement is everything; it’s not just enough for an actor to promote their latest project on a late night talk show. They now have to take part in online chats, “live” tweeting during broadcasts, as well as appearances on Periscope and other mobile platforms.
As technology continues to evolve, so will the need to generate additional content above and beyond normal programming. Those who think mobile-first will do well.