Mass media has been one of the most primary influences of modern cultural programming and visualization for the public. Most modern trends, ideas and collective consciousness of different nations are effectively shaped by the media and television trends.
Television channels run round the clock providing content to their consumers 24/7. In fact, the key goal of every television channel is to ensure that they can occupy some mental space of their public round the clock. This “rating” or amount of viewership for any particular channel is then used by the channel to measure its success. Furthermore, these ratings are also a price tag over the channel’s advertisement board (Williams, 2003). Basically, it means that the advertisement slots of channels with more ratings have higher packages and monetary worth as compared to channels with fewer ratings.
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In order to compete with different channels in an ever-growing market of such TV-based media, it is essential that the television channel managers and owners understand the concept of flow and how it is important to retain their audience from one segment of content to another, despite the variation of interests and quality of different contents overall. In terms of television programming, the concept of flow basically tries to enumerate the ways that televisions networks are able to hold their audience from one program to another, and therefore are able to control the flow of television material from one element to the next.The term “Flow” was first recognized and studied in the late 1970s when television consumption and viewership in America grew towards new heights. Some of the most important discoveries related to the concept of flow were first coined by Raymond Williams.
Primarily, Raymond William’s studies tried to quantify the concept of flow as being able to draw some links between average network regimes and the inter-relationship of new direction policies. These new direction policies aimed at revising the way modern television worked. This new direction policy would not only aim at a different approach towards discrete “texts” but would also be able to identify the required links between different varied approaches. This will drive towards the connections between various modes of media content and commercials and how the seamless integration of this flow could possibly contribute towards the success of the project as a whole.
With that perspective in mind, the new concept of flow was basically redefined to “the defining characteristic of broadcasting simultaneously as a technology and as a cultural form” (Williams, ) This all helps us realize the importance and changing positioning of the commercials and their context based on placement in various positions of the text.In fact, if the “flow” is considered from Nick Browne’s perspective, his theory suggests that the television is simply a medium that is able to connect the advertiser to the audience and basically television programming and television’s role is to basically act as a form of relay in the method of textualizing the interaction between an audience and the advertiser. According to Browne’s understanding of television programming, while television might give the pretext of being an experience that is basically key content being sprinkled with commercial content, it is not that simple. Television programming is the addition of commercials towards strategic positions in the television content area to maximize the influence of the commercial content over the public and give the advertiser the value of their money. With this perspective in mind about the operation of television programming, we can say that television shows themselves are merely programming that is incidental towards the kind of commercials that have to be shown at any particular time to the public. This kind of TV programming is used to attract the maximum amount of audience possible towards the commercials that are being presented towards the public target audience.It is often the case that the very nature of the television programming during certain hours is changed to match with the kind of commercials that are needed to be shown during the said hours. The demographic that is viewing the television at certain hours vary as well.
Such that the morning hours before school are usually dedicated towards early morning television programs. During that particular time of the day, televisions choose their children-based audience commercials to be displayed on-screen with the requisite television programming (programs and cartoons) as compared to other themes (Waller, 1988). Similarly, during the late hours of the night when most millennials and middle-aged individuals are lazing over their beds late at night, the networks choose to demonstrate the most vicious of television programming and give the largest commercial slots to their highest paid advertisements.
In these crucial hours, when almost all of the demographic is present for viewership, the networks have to compete with each other for the attention of the viewers and considering that the attention of viewers has to be drawn with television programming, the commercials are all decided based on the kind of viewership that is expected out of that demographic. Also, the retention of the demographic during the said time slots is ensured by the television programming (Varis, 1984).In order to understand the role of programming and flow over the culture, we have to comprehend the way consumer perceives this particular kind of programming. Most viewers of the nineties do not find the modern cartoons appealing and have in fact complained multiple times for the “lack of quality” of the said cartoons. They wish to have the old cartoons and programs back. When such programs were finally revived, like “Cartoon Network” and “Nickelodeon Reruns”, it was found that the viewers were still disgruntled with the overall effect of the reruns (Varis, 1984).
Even though the same “programming” was being used to attract the viewers since the same commercials were not linked up with that particular era of cartoons. Therefore, the overall TV programming felt lacking. Hence, we realize that the flow has an important overall contribution towards the “authenticity” of the TV programming as well.
In fact, modern media companies work hard to ensure that flow analyses of their programming and commercials are valid and are able to attract audiences instead of pushing them away due to the lack of synergy between the coupling of the said articles (Williams, 2003).Some critics of the flow’s role have questioned the authenticity of the DVDs and TV-based devices that offer the same content without the advertisements and the supposed “super-text” that was present along with the textual content of programming in traditional television. We see that DVDs are not that popular and even if the seasons and sagas of various TV shows have gotten on DVD or CD tapes to be viewed without advertisements, they rarely ever yield the same result in terms of satisfaction with the content as compared to other viewers. This means that when the audience was given the same shows of their past with no commercials or underlying super-text (this super text can include the various animations that jump around during television programs to news tickers at the bottom of the tape), the clients were less satisfied with the overall viewing experience. This means that people are intrinsically drawn towards even the supposedly less desirable aspects of the overall viewing experience of television.
Despite the addition of numerous other forms of media such as YouTube, Netflix, Facebook videos etc., the mainstream television experience has not yet been truly replicated. The television experience requires individuals to be captivated not only by the advertisement content but also by the synchronization that is made between the new content and the commercials that go with it (Nordenstreng¸1974).It is interesting to note that some media channels like YouTube and Netflix have also tried to develop their own unique flow traits and tried to establish ways to engage the attention of their consumer by adding value to their commercial content. They make sure that the relevance of the advertisements, if not towards the content, are naturally inclined towards the people themselves. Unlike television, modern media is more inclined towards the use of strategic marketing to create a flow for their content. Consequently, these new systems of value creation make use of the data provided by the customer through their devices about the kind of life choices and buying trends they are more likely to have. Based upon this acquired data, the commercial content is tailored towards these people alone.
Such that children devices are rarely ever found to advertise condoms while devices in adult use are not usually found to market ‘Toys R Us’ products (Nordenstreng, 1974). Therefore, it can be said that the modern trends of media consumption have changed. With that, the definition of flow and the “perfect-fit” between consumer advertising and television programming have changed.
In order to model this new change, we have to monitor the effect created by these new content feeds over consumer viewing trends and the preference of consumers over different viewing and advertising experiences on multi-platform devices. It is a very important consideration that if the modern viewing experience has changed and the mediums of viewing have changed as well, how does the adapted vision of “flow” contrast with the textbook definition of flow given to us by the work of Raymond Williams. In order to experience this, let us first categorize the various versions of viewing experiences that are quite common for the average millennial audience in the 21st century. These are:Online Youtubing: YouTube is the biggest online video-viewing website in the world and has a viewership of more than 1 billion fresh viewers each month which is more than every other television network in the world combined. Furthermore, the kind of traffic dealt by YouTube cannot possibly be dealt by an average television channel because the viewing on YouTube is not “programmed” by the networks themselves but selectively programmed by the viewer himself. He selects the kind of videos that the viewer feels like seeing and therefore, they make their own selections about the viewing experience and programming. Similarly, unlike other television networks, YouTube rarely ever releases its own content and most of the content released on YouTube is from other people who have uploaded it on YouTube.
The role of YouTube is to basically monitor the kind of content that is being displayed to an individual, tailor the viewing experience for the said individual and more importantly, find the right advertisements for the said individuals. YouTube uses the browsing and clicks history of the individual to find out some of the unique tastes of the said individual and then build upon that premise to find out the most suitable commercial content for that particular individual. Therefore, we can say that the advertisements and the content are both custom-tailored by the person’s own viewing preferences. This form of unique viewership has allowed YouTube to simply grow from a television site to a medium of learning, entertainment, and time-spending for billions of people worldwide. In fact, if the theory of Raymond Williams is applied, and we try to identify some sort of “super-text” to this form of the viewing experience, we find that, just like televisions, YouTube itself has a unique super text (Lotz, 2010).This super text, like televisions, is basically ad content on the right and left of the viewing screens, and often also appears as a commercial content in the bottom of the view-slider as well. Similarly, just like the predictions of Raymond Williams, we find that although viewers are not particularly fond of the advertisements that are being displayed, we see that the new YouTube(ad-free) version introduced recently did not hit the expected number of subscriptions.
Out of the billion people using YouTube, only a mere fraction applied for YouTube Red, the premium ad-free YouTube experience. Therefore, as far as YouTube is concerned, we can say that this form of the viewing experience is also affected by a unique flow of its own and has its super text (Lotz, 2010).9GAG: In terms of viewing experiences, one has to consider that while the old viewing experience was available only in the form of video on television screens, the modern viewing experience has changed entirely. People can not only view video content to entertain themselves, new forms of pictorial content with symbolic meanings is also present to entertain people and catch their attention. Sites like 9GAG provide a unique viewing experience that can range from a few minutes to hours on end depending on the time available to the reader. Furthermore, we see that the people use such viewing experiences for the same intrinsic happiness they drew from their Sunday evening shows. Therefore, we can apply the theories of flow on these segments as well.
We see that just like YouTube, 9GAG also has a unique viewership and is sustained by the use of custom advertisements on the sides of the viewing window. These advertisements are shown as the “super text” of the viewing window and therefore are much similar to the viewing experience on televisions (Van Dijck, 2007).Based on these two unique new viewing experiences, it must be asked that how does television programming itself change in perspective of the new options available to mankind. People are still disgruntled with the material they do not prefer and obviously, the key objective is still to get as many advertisements seen as possible. What kind of “programming” allows people to stick to the content as much as possible? With this question in mind, we analyze some of the more popular programming methodologies in modern viewership.
We find that the first hurdle is the selection of the kind of content that would be preferred by viewers on an online medium. Some of the key industry favorites include combinations of sports shows, wrestling matches, nature videos etc. Live content usually has more viewership as compared to recorded content, and therefore, live content as a “programming” offers more leverage to the networks or websites to use their commercials.
In fact, in the modern web-based live programming, we see that the individuals are keen on developing the use of click-based advertisements for their programs. Since the users can interact with the windows, therefore, the viewing windows are often obscured by commercial windows such that the commercial windows are only removed after a period of 10-15 seconds (thereby using up viewer time) or by clicking on it multiple times.Both of these techniques are measures to ensure that the material is present at the back of the mind of the viewer and thus the key objective of commercializing the said content has been achieved. Moving towards the secondary objectives, we see that people are more inclined to click on the ads if they trust that the site or viewership will deliver the content they desire and therefore will not mind the addition of the commercial content (Palmer, 1995).While websites like YouTube are the holy grail of such viewing experiences, other third party websites are not always as honest and often have nothing concealed in their advertisements. Basically, these websites use the promise of content for the viewers to click their materials and are, therefore, primarily “fake” distributors.
This kind of viewing experience frustrates the viewer and thus when certain websites follow the Raymond paradigm of programming, it feels much more natural to pursue them as sources of content. Therefore, we can establish that even in the dissemination of content through modern websites, if good television programming is not used, it can lead to problems for both the viewers and the people alike.Furthermore, in order to ensure that good viewership is generated for the websites, they must be treated like any other television network and the principles of operation of the said websites must be mimicked like their television counterparts. The programming selected for the website should be selected after adequate research has been put into the kind of target market that has to be fetched for a particular website. After the selection of programming, the next key step is the selection of the right commercial content which has some sort of synergy with the added material (Russell, 2004).
For example, if a sports cut is being shown on screen, it would make sense for the network or website to include advertisements that have sports tag associated with them or are selling equipment that is related to sports or nutrition. On the other hand, if the website displays some sort of cooking ritual or cooking show, then it makes much more sense for the website to have added a commercial content that is more suited to cooking-viewers. Content like some spice, new valuable cheese sale or adequate food items that are advertised. The Google Ad forum enables the effective use of such web space and the viewers will get used to this new formation of viewership only if effective measures are used to create organic viewership (Haridakis, 2009).Therefore, in conclusion, we see that television programming is an essential aspect of any viewing experience and the commercial content’s synergy with this kind of programming is what makes the network ratings work. The creation of cooperation and mutual fitting between the commercial content and the television programming is called “flow”.
According to Raymond’s theories, flow is an important aspect of television programming and has the ability to affect the ratings of the said programming. That being said, this essay finds that almost all modern forms of viewership are influenced by “flow”. Even though the mediums and the kind of content being displayed are changed, along with an associated change in the interaction of viewers with the content, the key principles of flow and commercial feasibility are still the same.
The viewers will not accept programming or commercial content alone without associated super text and in order to recreate the experience, televisions networks and websites alike need to focus on a thorough analysis of flow being offered.