It's not that your content isn't interesting or relevant. It's not that your delivery pipeline is unreliable. It isn't even that you've monetized too aggressively with too many ads. So what's the problem?
The experience of consuming your content isn't fun enough or social enough in itself. Let me be clear - I don't mean that your content itself isn't fun. That cat sail video was hilarious, as was the landord one. I'm referring to the enjoyment users get from the actual process of navigating and consuming your content.
Welcome to the world of gamification.
Working in the media world, I often tell my clients "Content is King" when discussing design approach. However, in a world increasingly full of consumers who list video games as their primary source of entertainment, simply having the best content is no longer good enough. This new generation of younger people is often derided as having zero attention span, but they're not the problem - the rest of the world just moves too slow for them. As content providers and media developers, we need to catch up to their speed!
Gamification Makes Content Fun and Social (and changes our brains!)Studies of gamified learning environments show that classrooms of students whose curricula include gamification perform far more effectively due to the inclusion of those game mechanics. These students cite as the leading drivers of their increased engagement the fun and multiplayer nature of the new approach.
Why is gamified content exploration so rewarding? Playing games actually changes your brain. It's widely known that the cycle of reward that games offer releases dopamine in the brain, but beyond that addictive effect, studies are increasingly showing that gaming increases the fluid IQ of the gamer and builds neural pathways related to creative problem solving.
There is a school of thought that gaming is one contributor to the Flynn Effect, the sustained increase in intelligence test scores since the 1930s (about 0.36 points/year in the U.S.). The additional stimulation, challenge, and creativity that come about from gaming may actually make us smarter.
Who else is gamifying their content?
Gamification is taking over the business world. The Gartner Group's analysts predict that by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes. The New York Times recently ran an article on gamification in business that was itself gamified.
Ford's Fusion hybrid displays its MPG-meter not as a gauge with numbers, but as a tree that drivers can grow or decay based on their driving habits:
Real money can be at stake in these games as well. Kevin Richardson won a contest that sought to reduce speeding. He created a "Speed Camera Lottery", whereby motorists were rewarded with a cash payout for driving slower than the speed limit when captured by automated speed cameras. The payout? The fines levied against the speeders caught by the same camera.
Ideas to Gamify your online media experience
So, how do you prevent your online audience from leaving you by gamifying your content? Here are two of my ideas:
1) People Living in Competition
One of the key elements in gamification is the social aspect (think Foursquare checkins, social games like Zynga's Farmville, etc.) Imagine 4 groups of video consumers:
- A classroom of 20 students for an online university
- Attendees at a virtual online conference
- Netflix subscribers watching videos on Xbox consoles with their friends
- Ad-supported audiences watching the Super Bowl on NBC via tablets
2) Show me the Money
As mentioned above in the Speed Camera Lottery, real monetary rewards are becoming more commonplace in gamification. Video game players are seeing their game playing as more and more of a money-making sport, and the same expectation extends to gamification of video. That group of students might win a homework holiday for watching the most independent physics videos. The Netflix subscribers might win a free month of service. The possibilities are endless.