I never had a word for it before. Now I do. My teen daughter is into communitainment-ing. And she’s not alone. If you’re a parent of a teen or spend much time around them, you can probably relate.
The symptoms: they are always on…online…on MySpace…on IM…on a photo sharing service…on an online game with friends…on I-tunes…on their cell phone texting…on the spot in sharing some crazy video with their friends (sometimes all at the same time).
They don’t watch much TV. But nonetheless, when you start to worry that they are becoming desk-potatoes and anti-social and you force them to disconnect and go outside to get fresh air or exercise or go to the mall or a ball game, it’s not uncommon to find them in groups on their cell phones texting others and even one another. As more of them convince their parents to buy them smart phones, they are taking and sharing video, mobile myspacing and so much more.
A report released last month by Piper Jaffray’s analyst Safa Rashtchy entitled ‘The User Revolution’ describes how users are going from simply exchanging information, to sharing information, ideas, content and entertainment, all within a social context, as part of a process dubbed ‘Communitainment’.
In a story in Adweek, Rashtchy pondered whether the younger viewers were cutting back on something else? It turns out they are cutting back on some of the more traditional entertainment avenues. But the communication on IM and MySpace is entertainment for them. To them, communication is not what it is to us. If we’re talking, we want to exchange some information, then we’ll get back to our work, or we’ll go watch a movie or some TV for entertainment. For younger people those [communication and entertainment] activities are intertwined. They send music and video files to each other, and that activity, by itself, is fun for them. It is not the same as what we call communication. He believes that increasingly, people on the Web, especially younger people, are going to gravitate toward content consumption in a way that is not direct content consumption but, combined with something else that is tied within the idea of social community.
The report suggests that “Communitainment” will at least partially replace other forms of content–i.e., TV, magazines, and even big Internet sites in favor of niche content sites. And the importance of the trend is not just in shifting traffic patterns but, more importantly, in the way users view content as a free-flowing part of the communication spectrum.
So where do marketers fit? When consumers watch TV, there is an understanding that they get commercials in exchange for free programming. With “Communitainment,” that ‘understanding’ doesn’t exist. Content is created and shared by users. It’s a closed system and advertisers have to find a way to get into it. And that point is critical if Rashtchy is correct in his prediction that “communitainment” will rise from 30% last year to 50% over the next decade. But once you get in, you’re actually part of the family. The content family. Part of the family, that is, if advertisers can indeed gain consumers’ trust.