Zeiner, blog 26, media convergence

So far in this ”introduction to mass media” class, we have mostly discussed the so called “traditional media”. Arthur Berger mostly sticks to the traditional media use the way it has been for last years. But Henry Jenkins, on the other hand, sets the media in a new perspective, in which we can understand how it works in the contemporary society. He talks about media convergence, and a synonym for convergence is meeting. In media convergence, multiple media coexist, and a flow of content circulates between them.

            The chapter “buying into American Idol” in Jenkins’ book paints a picture of advertisement, advertisers, consumers and programmers/producers that places each entity in a media convergence type of model. They all work together, and converge with each other.

            Programmers and producers rely on participation culture – a culture in which the participation of the consumers is significant. The old media model places producers and consumers on two different sides, and the viewers has no further interaction but tuning in their TV, and then watch passively. But the new model explains the importance of audience participation, and converge producers and consumers together. You can both produce and consume at the same time!

A show like American Idol is a perfect example of media convergence. First of all, the audience actively takes part in the show. They are the ones participating in the contest, they vote, and they decide the outcome of the result. Also, they become huge fans, who all discuss online, speculate, upload videos, write blogs etc. They promote the show by making such a big deal out of it. Newspapers write as well, and there are also shows on TV only about American Idol. At the same time, advertisers have a big part of the show to. Coca Cola sponsors the show, and they use this promotion for all its worth. They have product placement, a red “green room” and so forth. At the same time, Coca Cola uses Idol in a lot of their advertisements and campaigns to get even more positive publicity. And this benefits American Idol further more – it all works in a circle. So: what we can see from all of this is how it all converges together. American Idol has TV presence, online presence, the songs go on the radio, and the newspapers write about it. With other words: it flows between multiple media. It also converges producers and consumers, and the participatory culture is significant. There is a lot of interconnectedness. And last but not least; the advertisers and producers converge together, and use each other for all its worth. So as you can see: this one show called American Idol converges an entire culture together!

Jenkins writes that the American public is becoming harder and harder to impress for advertisers. $ 8 billion a year is being used on commercials, but do these really have the affect the advertisers are hoping for? Digital Video Recorders are the next phenomenon in our culture, and allows the viewers to skip all commercials on TV. This only means that the convergence is even more important to the advertisers! Jenkins refers to a convergence strategy, in which content providers and sponsors have greater collaborations in order to shape the total entertainment package even better. And this is really important!

In the past, media producers spoke of making an impression on their audience, while they today are working with “expressions”. And the marketing community has moved towards an established “brand community”, and increased brand loyalty. The loyal consumers are the most important ones; and in the sense of media consumption – the biggest fans. Fans can literally go crazy some times, and have a significant meaning to the shows. For example, the drama show Jericho was taken off after their first season because a misunderstanding about its ratings. The show didn’t have high ratings on TV, but was one of the most viewed shows online and through TiVo. Its active fans protested, took initiative, and actually had the producers make a second season. However, now it’s seems as if it’s being taken off again. But the fans still know what to do – they go to other networks and try to make them continue the show! With other words: the participatory culture is really showing an extreme effect.

I think we have only seen the start of media convergence. It is most definitely the next phenomenon which will dominate our culture, and collaboration between all entities grows significantly. What had American Idol been without the participatory culture? What had it been without its producers? What had it been without its sponsors? Or most importantly: what had it been without the media convergence?

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