Saturday 24 February 2018

All Content Business is Show Business

Forty years ago, as TV entered the mainstream, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath revolutionized the world of professional sports with a simple, but prescient insight: football is not just a sport, it’s show business. Thus, the legend of “Broadway Joe” was born.

Namath’s genius was in recognizing that, in a TV-centric age, his ubiquitous presence in commercials and on late night talk shows would be equally important as his on-the-field performance in solidifying his iconic place in history. This arguably played an early role in the evolution of NFL football into a multi-billion-dollar phenomenon.

Flash forward to today. In our hyper-connected always-on age, the most savvy content creators are modern-day Namaths. They recognize that the Internet is more than a medium. In fact, it’s an endless source of entertainment – even in journalism.

“Today’s journalists must be equally adept at their trade and in the art of ‘putting on a good show’ to engage an audience,” CBS/CNET Editor Dan Farber told me over lunch last week. “This is why we look for writers who not only can swarm on a topic, but who can also tell and present stories in a compelling ways that capture the attention of an audience that has many choices for where they get their information. Like Broadway, we start with an empty theater every day, and we want to fill it up by virtue of the quality of what we produce.”

That’s the key takeaway from Edelman’s 2012 Value and Engagement in the Era of Social Entertainment and Second Screens study (excerpted below). The Internet is, in fact, a growing source of entertainment. This is particularly true as second screen experiences create a new show around shows – one that stars us and is equally addicting as the content itself.

All of this should be encouraging for content producers. Social media appears to increase the perceived value of the original content. This may mean that audiences will understand that such content experiences are premium and, therefore, should be paid for.

However, “show business” is far more democratic today than it was when content was more scarce. This means there will be constant pressure on the entertainment community to stay ahead. The key is to constantly evolve  the “show” in hopes that the “business” follows.

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