John McCann

Olympics participation

In Media involvement on February 24, 2006 at 9:20 pm

In an earlier post, Involved in a TV show, I talked about involvement as a form of participation. I participate in my world via my involvement with the subject matter.

I thought about this post when I read an article by Bruce Horovitz and Laura Petrecca, “10 suggestions to boost the Olympics, in USA Today, about how the Olympics could be changed to appeal to the new generation.

“Viewer voting on televised competitions such as American Idol has given rise to new phenomena: official judges might get the last word, but they’re no longer the only voice. Text messaging and online voting have changed all that. Even if viewers don’t decide who wins Olympic medals, many would welcome the chance to weigh in on Olympic events and personalities. ‘Young viewers need to feel like they’re involved in their programming,’ says Catherine Mullen, general manager of TV music network Fuse.”

Mullen’s statement that young viewers need to feel involved is the key. She goes on to offer a suggestion of how this could work:

“Mullen suggests NBC or the International Olympic Committee create an online venue where teens could post messages on topics such as which athletes would make the best-looking Olympic couple.”

This is not just being involved; this is true participation by becoming a producer of content. Think about it. When you post a message on a site associated with an event’s coverage, you are producing content for that coverage. You have changed the coverage to include your comments, your analysis and your opinions. To you, that contribution may be more important than the content generated by the TV announcers.

When a show’s producers facilitate such participation, they provide people with a reason to watch the TV production. Voting for the couples provides a reason to watch. Without it, the participation generation will likely go somewhere else. Perhaps that is why American Idol is out-drawing the Olympics broadcasts: viewers of American Idol can become participants by voting for their favorite contestant.

Coverage of the Olympics is just one example of how mainstream producers need to recognize that we are now in the Participation Age. There are examples of shows where the producers have seemed to know that they are in this new age. For instance, the executive producers of the TV show Lost have a podcast in which they answer questions posed by viewers and remark on the theories about the show that appear on various blogs. Such efforts are just the tip of the iceberg of what is likely to appear in coming months and years as the haze around the Dawn of the Participation Age dissipates.

  1. I am of the opinion the Olympics should be drastically cut back. There is little gain from the sports fiasco. Improvements to social housing, environmental protection, AIDS research and global sustainability should be celebrated. Not a (advertising blitz) sporting event.

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