New Delhi: Last year, Wired magazine talked about a ‘Rise in the snack culture’ in entertainment and how byte sized chunks were being lapped up by an entertainment crazed audience.
Be it Bollywood songs, cricket coverage, TV soaps, video games, fashion and technology trends or the trivialized news that is put out on 24-hour channels, the ‘snacking culture’ is here to stay. Coming in convenient byte-size nuggets, they can be munched with increased frequency and speed.
Hunger for byte sized ‘media snacks’
This could be a forwarded SMS joke; MTV chito-chat ticker, short Bollywood remixed song, 20-second viral spoof on a cola ad, one-minute user-generated video upload on Youtube or a non-news-item-number (Rakhi-Sawant-kisses-Mika) courtesy a TRP starved news-channel.
Most of us don’t have time for anything and yet want to experience everything. Snacking therefore becomes the best, though sub-optimal experience. There is also an increase in ‘pottering’ time. In a world where boundaries of work, play and pottering have almost disappeared for many white –collared workers , thanks to the internet and mobile phone, media snacking offers an easy way to deal with information overload and entertainment-anxiety.
A typical work day for many starts early morning - a browse and respond routine on the BlackBerry, songs and songlets on the MP3 player while commuting; a constant feast of SMS, e-mails, viral videos, RSS feeds from blogs and the Google Reader, active widgets delivering news, trivia snippets, and bytes from videos and music straight to the laptop. All these are part of the media meal that we munch on, through the day.
And yet ironically, though we are snacking, we are not really having a full meal. The 30-page newspaper is gulped in 5 minutes, the three-hour Bollywood movie ‘consumed’ in less than 30 minutes, and nearly 30 e-mails are opened and responded to in less than three minutes.
Byte size makes commercial sense
In an increasingly Continuous Partial Attention(CPA) consumer society, byte size is the perfect size for selling, pushing commercial messages or branded content and the mobile screen is emerging as a preferred medium.
Mobiquity has emerged in India as a parallel entertainment economy. The country’s two big passions – cricket and Bollywood are putting in big money in this medium. T20 cricket exemplifies this where the format itself is a byte sized avatar of test cricket.
Through updates, ringtones, caller tunes, mobile gaming, music downloads, the mobile music market already outsells conventional music markets by a big margin.
Religion is turning into a big feed where spiritual ring tones and prayers to mobile ‘donations’ to religious community participation are big on user’s preferences. India is expected to lead amongst the Asian countries in generating mobile gaming revenues, according to the 2007 data released by Gartner Research.
Mobile entertainment could be big business
TV on mobile is now a personalized platform and due to space constraints within the home, mobile entertainment is likely to develop as a highly personal edutainment device. In the coming years, edutainment ‘snacks’ may be served with speed on the mobile platform.
In nuclear families living in metros and towns, different family members might be snacking on different entertainment bytes at any given time. So while the teenage son catches up on the MP3 remixed music, the mother may be playing ‘snake’ and the father checking out ‘forwarded jokes’ and videos clips, each on their respective mobile phones.
At last count as per a November 2007 listing on www.wirelessduniya.com, there were 63 Mobile VAS companies in India - ActiveMedia, BuzzCity, EnableM, Hungama Mobile are just a few names that are benefiting from the ‘snackization’ of creative content on the mobile. Traditional ad agency creative departments must expand to accommodate quickly the need for greater mobile content.
UGC. A Nokia NSeries Entertainment Study, ‘A glimpse of the next episode’ done in 2007, predicts that within five years, a quarter of all entertainment will be created, edited and shared within peer groups rather than coming out of traditional media groups and a large proportion of that content will be created on the ubiquitous mobile phone.
Marketers to master dynamics of byte-sized entertainment
Be it UGC or commercial content (boundaries will keep blurring), successful marketers and brands will be those who will master the art of byte sized entertainment.
In social media, the relatively new byte sized ‘killer approach’ is that of Twitter which is a twist on instant messaging. It lets users send short updates about their every move and thought to cell phones and personalized Web sites of a community, rather than just to individuals. A recent Business Week article pointed out that., “Twitter taps into a basic need of many Web users to suck up every last crumb of personalized information.”
In the coming years, it is precisely this mix of expert content mashed up with UGC and Twitter that will be slashed into juicy and instantly digestible chunks to feed the 500 million mobile phones that are currently being used in the country.
Creative challenges of the future
There are few boundaries between creative genres. With a 150-minute movie being reprocessed and presented in 5-7 four minute songs, 4 minute mobiflicks, cartoon strip and downloadable mini-movie series, it is possible for old ‘archived’ creatives to be re-contextualized for modern times.
The new creative content department must be an enriched hybrid of a 30-second spot writer, song writer, tech blogger and cricket junkie. Byte sized media snacking will sustain only if it is done smartly with a strong pulse on the market.
Manish Sinha is senior vice president, Mudra Marketing Services and head of strategy, Tribal DDB India. The views expressed in this article are his own.