I’m not ashamed to admit I have one reality show weakness. You can have your American Idol, your Dancing With The Stars and your So You Think You Can Dance, but don’t mess with my America’s Got Talent. Sure, all four shows get good ratings (for summer programming) and draw very talented competitors, but I am getting tired of their formulaic approach to competition. We all like watching the tragically untalented singers, dancers, jugglers, magicians and mimes. If you’re like me, you can relate more to them than to the eventual winners. Keep those videos rolling. We can also appreciate the previously undiscovered talent that eventually emerge to make the final rounds.
What gets me is that the producers feel like they can (and should) stretch 30 minutes of content into a 2-hour season finale, all in the name of selling more ads. They know they have their audience hooked, and cramming a few more sponsor vignettes or commercial breaks won’t hurt anybody, right? Wrong. How many times have you heard a variation of this common lead-in, “And the winner of this year’s (insert show name here) competition is……..(pregnant pause)……..coming up after the break.”? You know it’s coming, the studio audience knows it’s coming and the producers wisely cut to commercial before the audience’s groans reach the mics.
The reason I bring this up is simple. TV is a passive medium. Sitting through another 3-minute commercial break isn’t going to actually kill anybody, but stringing together several in the last 15 minutes of a reality show finale doesn’t help cement a relationship with a particular viewer either. Personally I use the breaks to hit the head, check email, grab a snack or take the dog out. The sad thing is, desperate advertisers know this but continue to pump money into a medium that fails to reach audiences like it used to. I’m not saying TV advertising isn’t effective anymore, it’s just becoming less so.
Online, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s an active medium. People expect instant gratification and aren’t afraid to click away to find what they want elsewhere. A site that introduces too many roadblocks before a conversion is going to lose visitors to the competition. People visit your site with a goal in mind. Many times, that goal is to give you their money. Don’t do anything foolish like put unnecessary ads, shopping cart pages or surveys in their path. Eliminate or consolidate as much “stuff” as possible and your customers will reward you.
TV producers haven’t figured this out yet. Stuffing more ads into a program might help them make up for their smaller audience size, but in most cases they are only creating more dissatisfied viewers that will significantly cut their TV consumption once they get a taste of instant gratification on the web.