Thursday, June 19, 2008

Media Convergence is a Reality

The convergence of all sorts of media, from TV to print to online, and even radio, is an undeniable reality. But ever so often, I'll experience something that really opens my eyes to how much crossing over is actually taking place, in large part, due to emerging technologies. This time, my eye-opening experience came from two e-newsletters about a pair of my favourite TV programs, both of which appear on the pay-TV Showtime network.

The primary purchase of each e-newsletter was to advise me that the new season would begin in September. But this wasn't the only focus: I was also informed on the many ways I could catch up on or review older episodes. The first method was one I already know about: watching them on-demand through my cable TV provider. Of course, I can also purchase the first season on DVD at my local retailer; or pre-order the second season DVD. But other, not-so-typical options included downloading the first two seasons on iTunes (U.S. customers only, of course); and joining the official Facebook fan page. So while the e-mail clearly advises that Showtime is the only place I'll be able to access the new season once it starts in September, the network has found multiple ways to keep me engaged before then, as well as monetize its existing product.

In a separate newsletter for the second show, the options became even more tech-savvy. I was told about things like a behind-the-scenes blog; and a neat Wiki where fans can do things like write their own episode guides, add to character profiles, and add images or stats on the actors.

It's a far cry from the days when I would handwrite a fan letter and mail it to an actor I had a crush on, only to receive a photocopied letter and signed photo in the mail 6-8 weeks later. Now, avid TV watchers can actively interact with the shows, and have multiple ways to catch up on old episodes. This emphasizes not just the rapid convergence of media industries, but also the reason why: consumers want choice in the way they interact with and consume content. I won't be entering any Wiki information, nor downloading episodes via iTunes (even if I could). But knowing that the options are there, and that people who do prefer those methods can engage in them, is satisfying in itself.

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