Storytelling in the Interactive Age: TV as Teacher

TV as a guide to storytelling As the television industry navigates its way through these tectonic changes, it can teach us how to respond to similar challenges. The static monologues delivered via press releases, white papers, and the vetted and sanitized “statement from the CEO” are rapidly being replaced by genuine dialogue between organizations and the audiences they want to reach.

Similarly, TV is restructuring its programs so that it can engage in a dialogue with its audiences. The signs of this restructuring are on every channel:

  • Folks watching Hawaii 5-0 can determine the ending of the program in real time by selecting the bad guy via Twitter.
  • Netflix uploaded every episode of House of Cards to allow people to watch it when they choose to.
  • A number of programs (including my favorite, The Blacklist) post Chyrons (those messages on the bottom of the screen) prompting you to download the episodes and the show’s soundtrack on iTunes.
  • Vine superstar Logan Paul took over the Today Show’s Vine account … live. (Don’t understand that sentence? You will.)
  • CBS’s Showtime Network partnered with LG Technologies to develop a system that allows viewers to participate in polls and trivia games about Showtime programs such as Dexter and Ray Donovan as they watch the shows.
  • Connect TV has an app that lets viewers capture six seconds of the show they’re watching and send that clip to their friends.
  • The app Viggle identifies the show you’re watching and then connects you to others watching the show via Facebook and other social media. It also allows you to rack up points for every minute you watch the show, which can then be redeemed from the show’s partners.
  • Engaging TV ads are no longer restricted to the Super Bowl as advertisers fight for viewers’ attention with better content and real-time interactivity.
  • TV networks are partnering with content distribution platforms—from YouTube to Apple TV—to ensure that their programs can be viewed anywhere on myriad devices.
  • Television manufacturers are taking the dialogue concept one step further with social television technology that allows you to literally talk to your television system.

Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey best summed it up when he said, "For kids growing up, there's no difference between watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computer. It's all content. It's all story.”

“The audience has spoken,” he said. “They want stories. … And they will engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of—and all we have to do is give it to them.”

You don’t need to invent an app to remain relevant. But you do need to share compelling stories with your audiences if you want to attract and hold their attention. And TV can show you how.

For concrete tips on how to improve your storytelling, check out our new book, The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization's Story: Insights and tools to help you navigate the Interactive Age.