The way to make stories and experiences interactive is to think paper

Written by on February 22, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

As we try and make devices and experiences more and more interactive, richer and instant, we should probably understand that we have failed, before we go much further.

‘The most interactive device, ever, is a book’. So said a conference speaker, years ago, when we were first seduced by interactive technology. Asked why, he said ‘because a book is yours, the characters are unique to you. You can stop it, start it, rewind it, read it again quicker than you can with a device. A device is a dictator. It dictates what the characters look like, what they feel, their back stories, whether you empathise with them, everything’.

It is, therefore, with something approaching alarm that we watch the battle for the big screen – the one in the living room. While Millennials become confused by the very notion of a ‘TV’ in the old school sense, social media giants – like Facebook and (don’t laugh) Twitter – are battling for that space.

News broke very recently that Facebook is planning to stream one Major League Football game a week. This on the back of a series of announcements and launches of social media companies linking up with sports events. And now launching apps to play them on the big TV.

Apart from the obvious flaw of managing the quality from the four-inch screen to the forty inch screen, there are several others.

Apparently consultants have decided that Facebook would get access to a young audience, at massive scale.

Others said that it would open up a huge international audience.

Both of these assumptions are flawed, and disingenuous at best.

Facebook’s audience is an ageing one, particularly in the US, and across parts of Europe. This demographic is exactly the demographic that watches ‘the game’ on the couch, with a beer, on a Monday night.

And even though it may be called the World Series, the only country that is really interested in American Football is – America. That said, Facebook might have some success with table tennis in China, except it has very little traction there.

Twitter has already been called out for boasting about its numbers of viewers of National League games. Because people do not ‘watch’ Twitter, they dip into it to try and extract some kind of sense from the firehose. The company said that trillions (OK, slight exaggeration) watched NFL games. But if you use the same metric as TV companies are forced to use, the figure ‘watching’ the NFL on Twitter is laughably small.

The same will be true of Facebook and MLB games, surely. Why would you ‘watch’ an MLB game on Facebook and not on TV? No adverts? Of course there will be adverts, Facebook is desperate to find new cyber spaces for adverts. Commentary? Unlikely, there is nothing wrong with the commentary. Comments from friends and family? Possibly. Maybe.

Whatever the motivation for Facebook tying up with baseball and Twitter tying up with football, they need to be very sure they are getting it right, and not pulling the wool over their advertisers’ eyes.

The trend at the moment, driven by fake news in all its grisly glory and the endless screaming for attention, is that people are turning back to paper. Private Eye, the satirical magazine in the UK had its highest circulation ever at the end of last year. Even though Private Eye is a mixture of inside stories and intentionally fake news, people need certainty.

And do not believe for a moment that young people have forsaken paper. Digital news, and digital stories are instantly forgettable.

Not so paper ones.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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