When You Should Build Your Content Around Your Users’ Habits

If you’re trying to reach today's audiences with your content strategy, your association needs to be multiple places, offering multiple contexts. But a quick reminder: Not all content is easy to mold into multiple forms.

As bad ideas by corporate executives go, an unusual suggestion made by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson might rank up there as one of the most infuriating for superfans.

Per Variety, Stephenson, whose company is attempting to purchase HBO-owner Time Warner, suggested that one of HBO’s crown jewels, Game of Thrones, should be redesigned for mobile platforms.

“Think about things like Game of Thrones,” Stephenson said at J.P. Morgan’s Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode.”

While acknowledging his comments would likely cause HBO CEO Richard Plepler “to panic,” the idea drew a lot of negative attention because of how it seemed to threaten the artistic shape of a show in the interest of a consumer’s viewing habits—or, at least, how those habits affect advertisers.

But Stephenson had a bigger point, noting that AT&T was limited in how it could share content on mobile, even though it had access to such content via its DirecTV property.

“Can you curate the content uniquely for a mobile environment? Can you create new ad-supported models for a mobile environment? And those are the things that were just going to be slow and a long time coming and so we did the Direct or the Time Warner deal, excuse me, Time Warner changes the game,” he said at the event, according to Seeking Alpha.

As the reaction to those comments suggested, Stephenson’s idea is an awkward fit for a show as well regarded as Game of Thrones. But there is a kernel of truth in there, though he probably picked the wrong content vessel to make his point. (George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, on which Game of Thrones is based, probably presents a more flexible option.)

The fact is this: We simply interact differently with content on mobile devices and tablets versus desktop computers or televisions. This is true no matter if the content we’re engaging with is video, audio, text, or interactive.

The fact is this: We simply interact differently with content on mobile devices and tablets versus desktop computers or televisions. This is true no matter if the content we’re engaging with is video, audio, text, or interactive.

And in many cases, if we’re going to maximize the impact of content, we need to rethink the way it’s presented on different platforms.

A Different Kind of Book

There is a market opportunity for doing something like this well, though it might not be the first thing you think of: It’s the Bible, one of the most widely published and closely read texts you can find.

A great example is an app called YouVersion. It was one of the first apps on the iPhone to present the Bible in a mobile context, and since then, the developers, based at a church in Oklahoma, have expanded its mission and approach significantly. Earlier this year, a version of the app showed up on the Google Home device, complete with different ways to access the content based on mood or reading structure.

The app offers a variety of translations and different ways of reading the world’s most-published books. Some churches even allow readers to follow along with a YouVersion app in the pews.

This month, the app topped 271 million downloads, a scale that is crazy to think about.

The Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, the pastor who helped formulate the app, told The Oklahoman last year that the app was designed to allow people to engage with the Good Book in any way they’d like.

“Our goal is that every person with a mobile device will have access to the Bible in their native language through the Bible App,” Gruenewald noted.

Obviously, the Bible, with its numerous translations, is different from a show like Game of Thrones. People are used to slicing, dicing, and curating the way that they interact with the Bible—though plenty of people simply want it the traditional way, in book form.

And putting aside the religious aspects and thinking of it as a work that people interact with, YouVersion is a great example of how taking something the public is familiar with and making it more compatible with modern needs can actually make that information more effective.

Consider Your Content Vessels

So where do associations fit into this discussion? While, as I’ve noted recently, there is some importance in limiting how some material is put online, and some content should be given a premium context, much in the form of Game of Thrones.

But other information is much more malleable and suitable for different forms of presentation—on a mobile website, in an app, in an email, in a video, in a podcast, or, yes, even a magazine.

There are many more options for presenting a message, whether educational, informative, or persuasive, than there were even five years ago. The better you can target your messages to your audiences—and the way that they interact with their content—the better.

But if you’re the CEO of AT&T, perhaps you shouldn’t mess with Game of Thrones. Nobody wants that.

Would you be more likely to watch "Game of Thrones" on a smartphone if the episodes were 20 minutes long? (HBO)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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