Just somewhere to put down my thoughts on Interactive Media Strategies (IMS) and occasionally some other stuff that pops into my mind...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Uses and Gratifications

Consumers of traditional media are thought to have no say in how it influences them. They are push media in that people receive what is supplied. Uses and gratifications theory suggests that interactive media is different as its consumers use it in order to satisfy certain motivations. They actively pull through what they want.

Korgaonkar and Wolin (1999) categorise reasons for using the web into the following 5 motivations (taxonomy):
  • Information
  • Social escapism
  • Socialisation
  • Economic benefit
  • Interactive control

This can be of use to brands when building their online presence. Molesworth and Jenkins (2002) discuss how sites that meet a specific need better than others will be favoured and that if a user doesn’t experience the gratification they seek, they may become hostile towards the failing site. Folksonomies, where users actively categorise sites with tags, are becoming increasingly popular to signpost to others what they can expect from sites. This may promote the notion of specialisation rather than trying to offer something for everyone. The most successful sites have one very clearly defined function.

There are a number of criticisms of the uses and gratifications framework and many feel it rarely goes beyond a list of reasons for why people use media. It would be of more use if it helped define types of web users (typology) in terms of personality and behaviour. This would be a highly advantageous to brands for targeting.  Traditional demographics are becoming less applicable online because a new online culture has developed.  Brands are going to need to understand this to make the most of the media.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Interactive Media Navigation for Marketers

Marketers would benefit a great deal from insight into how people navigate on the internet. In much the same way as they layout real life retail environments, with this knowledge they could optimise sites so that they keep peoples' interest. Hoffman and Novak (1996) suggest that “flow”, originally mentioned by Csikszentmihalyi in 1977, is a key concept for this area.

Flow describes a state of navigation where the user becomes totally involved in what they are doing. They seem cut off from the rest of the world, even losing track of time. This is related to, but different from, stickiness. Stickiness is where users are offered various functions that have the potential to keep them engaged and so they remain on a site. Flow is an enjoyable experience that doesn't hold someone on a site, but that comes about by facilitating the user's needs, creating a seamless environment. They feel good about what they are doing and so they are more likely to return to the same activity.

Hoffman and Novak believe that flow occurs when users have clear goals, receive immediate feedback and encounter a match of skills and challenges above a certain level. Are users more likely to encounter these characteristics when engaged in “goal directed” or “experiential” navigation? Both would be relevant for marketers in terms of aiding purchasing decisions and creating positive perceptions of their brands for example.

Either way, Rettie (2001) has provided some inhibitors to flow that marketers should try to avoid where they can. These include, waiting for downloads, receiving inappropriate search results, being interrupted by advertising, using the web from work (and so being conscious of restrictions etc) and being aware of the cost of using the internet. These seem to make sense in terms of breaking the smooth navigation of relevant content, but do they assume users take on a scopic regime where everything is an obstacle? What is to say that users don't enjoy the variety that web search sometimes throws up? This may be the case particularly when users are engaged in experiential navigation.

Flow does seem like a phenomenon that exists, but I think there is more to navigation than flow provides. What if someone has a busy schedule and simply pops online for a quick browse? They may well react negatively towards brands that entice them into a flow experience that lasts for hours.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Interactive Media?

Innovations in the media landscape led to a range of channels being labelled interactive. The birth of internet was the start but this term is now used to describe a range of media from mobile phones to video games. Brands now see interactivity as the thing to be participating in if you want any level of success. But didn’t traditional media have the capability to be interactive?

This all boils down to your definition of interactivity I guess. I see interactivity as dialogue or action between two or more people. In a similar way to Grunig and Hunt’s two-way symmetrical mode of communication, I think interactivity has to involve mutual negotiation and real evidence that both parties are listening. This can be achieved in traditional media. You can write a letter to journalists and editors of newspapers for example, and if it raises an important point it could be published and even commented upon. You may say that this is a rather awkward, convoluted and slow method of interactivity, but the capability is there.

The internet does facilitate interactivity, but it isn’t always used by brands who claim they are embracing it for these very qualities. Just because it’s online doesn’t make it interactive, so should the label used to describe these new media be changed? I don’t think they even need a label really...