This is the Hook Media Newsletter – a round-up of the most interesting thoughts, insights, and findings about the media landscape compiled by the Hook team each month. You can also get this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox each month – sign up for free by following this link.
So how’s your pandemic going? I don’t know about you dear reader, but it’s made us reassess at Hook.
It’s delivered the realisation that what the world needs isn’t a filtered insta-shot of a newsletter guy’s perfectly poached egg, smashed avocado and sourdough toast.
What the world ACTUALLY needs is reality: letting people see the real me on Tik Tok – an overweight guy, in Guantanamo Bay fatigues, wearing pilot googles, listening to Teddy Pendergrass, and eating Nutella out of the jar.
If David Warner can rehabilitate himself using Tik Tok to get millions of views a video, so can this Newsletter Guy!
With this reinvention in mind, we thought we’d take a look at how some key media is responding to and sitting within the Covid-crisis – from social media, through to TV and Radio, looking at these products reveals some fascinating insights into our needs as consumers in this crazy, crazy time…
TikTok – Embracing the Everyday Ephemera
Being stuck in your house, has made people seek the special in the mundane and everyday – TikTok is the perfect platform for this.
It feels natural in a way that other social platforms do not: It doesn’t showcase (for the most part) the highly curated lives found on Instagram (more perfect lives – even aceing lockdown!) or the splurges of opinion found on Twitter (more people in my bubble spouting off, please).
Instead peak-TikTok is a cricketer I like swapping bodies with his daughter while doing Bangra, followed by dog challenges, and then Old Man Steve making crackers.
Because TikTok analyses user interest on how they interact with content there is no homepage interface, only a content feed based on how long a user interacts with a video. Consequently, there is less of a sense of context, a feeling that everything is ephemera – a series of videos passively commenting on the world around them, functioning like a series of recurring memes critiquing the entertaining and provoking aspects of everyday life.
TikTok is a perfect, ordinary antidote for extraordinary times (and the only thing this newsletter writer’s brain has space for at the moment).
Beyond this, it will be interesting to see how the platform develops in future. Some other interesting data-points:
- TikTok has partnered with the NFL to become their key platform.
- During The League of Legends esports world championships in 2019 Riot Games partnered with TikTok to launch its original music track GIANTS.
- Bytedance (TikTok’s owner) is looking to launch games imminently. Whilst the sort of games it might launch might not match TikTok’s countercultural image – a captive audience with time on its hand might love them anyway!
Instagram – Changing the Intimidating Face of Perfection
Given Instagram has been downloaded over 1B times, it’s kind of a big deal (these are the quality insights you’re looking for in a newsletter, right?)
This is why Sarah Frier’s No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Our Culture – is an important read. Learning more about the creator of the app – Kevin Systrom – is instructive, not least because as Frier herself writes ‘[tech] products are ultimately a reflection of their leaders’.
I thought this vignette was particularly enlightening: The book tells a story about Systrom having a hissy fit after Facebook bought Instagram and installed bins in the Insta office. In what employees called #trashcangate he got rid of the bins because:
- Bins are not beautiful and pristine – unlike the Insta app
- Facebook, with its mantra of ‘done is better than perfect’, annoyed him. Instagram should be perfect, and bins (in his mind) are the epitome of imperfection.
This story really captures the founder’s willingness to sacrifice usefulness/ experience at the altar of beauty and aesthetics. Systrom had always been a perfection hunter – Instagram, in part, was born out of his belief that users wanted the option to make their crappy phone photos (and through these pics, others’ perceptions of their lives) more appealing.
This search for the perfect coupled with Systrom’s idea of what ‘quality’ is, led to a platform geared towards changing users’ perceptions of prestige. There were no ways of making a post go viral on the app’s launch, so Insta had a team of people hand-picking photos to put on the popular page. For example, In 2013 one employee had a FULL TIME JOB discovering cute pets to highlight on the platform!
By constantly pushing aspirant lives (and the different component parts of these lives), peoples’ habits and desires changed – secret beauty spots became photo hotspots, books came to be sorted on colour not author (a big thumbs down from me), and food was positioned not eaten.
Ultimately, Insta helped to create a system where worth and value were judged on having a perfect aesthetic with little regard to substance: ‘Who cares if I haven’t read the books, they look pretty!’
However, in the current pandemic period, what people aspire towards and respect has been reassessed: star workers are key workers; people like Joe Wicks who inspire action are admired online; and there is a new found respect for substance.
This has led to a situation where Insta influencers are recasting themselves not so much as arbiters of taste to be envied, but as ‘doers’ to be emulated. This has led to a slew of heavily followed influencers developing books, how-to videos, classes and their own filters.
Clearly the methods being used to influence are changing, and what constitutes an aspirant life has evolved to focus as much on ability as aesthetic. However, the next step will be seeing how audiences react, who the winners and losers are in this new Insta world, and ultimately what that says about the world(s) users want to feel a part of…
Building Pandemic-Proof Online Audiences
How do you build close relationships with your audiences when you have to stay socially distanced? That’s the problem that Nick Green was trying to solve when he created the Social Distancing Festival…
TV – Comfort Viewing in an Uncomfortable Time
Social media isn’t the only screen in town. In the UK, we’re now watching an extra 72 minutes a day of TV (on average) – with 16-34 year olds powering this growth (watching 85 minutes or more each day).
- Over the Lockdown, there’s been an increase of 28% in the number of downloads for Sky boxsets (total 34m), the BBC saw a similar increase of 28% (total 22m) and All 4 downloads grew by 66% (total 11m).
- Sky Arts has also seen an increase of 55%, with ‘live’ performances from Elvis, Queen, and Johnny Cash proving the most popular.
- Sky News has seen a 230% increase in viewing, and lunch time news bulletins have seen a huge uplift: BBC News at One is up by 70% and ITV news by 53%
In our experience, what we’re seeing here is: a) an antidote to boredom for people with lots more time on their hands, and b) comfort viewing being snacked on by people in an uncomfortable period of their lives. Some proof for the latter:
- Talking Pictures TV delivering forgotten classic movies, old school docs and cult series to an audience of 3.5 million a week as an antidote to Netflix.
- Traditional feeling dramas like Normal People (in spite of all the sex), which are ultimately about character development rather than plot have done extremely well – Normal People broke BBC Three records by having 21.8 million programme requests and 16.2 million series requests in its first week of launch.
- Channel 4’s prime-time slate doing much better with a roster of tried and tested shows rather than ‘edgy’ and ‘thought-provoking’ content
- The BBC commissioning ‘comfort viewing with comforting talent’: 2 x Jack Whitehall shows one about father’s day and another about great sporting moments, and Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow delivering a pastiche of a range of classic teatime gameshows from the past
If this isn’t low intensity comfort viewing, I’m not sure what is – like a pair of warm slippers, a cup of cocoa, and a big slice of cake (OK – maybe with a bit of extra bonking, if you’re watching Normal People).
Broadcasts for Podcasts
Discoverability is a huge issue with podcasts. So what’s a better way to beam these fascinating new products into listeners’ ears than through old-fashioned airwaves? We had a chat with the founder of Podcast Radio, Gerard Edwards, to chat all things pods Read our interview here
“Audio is the Medium of the Apocalypse” – Reminding us of the importance of Radio
Radio during Covid-19 is booming, with listenership spiking as music streaming declines during lockdown. Recent Rajar figures show big gains for BBC’s specialist stations, local commercial radio and talk radio.
As a client of ours told me the other day: “Audio is the medium of the Apocalypse”.
Part of the excitement around radio, in particular, is the feeling of community it facilitates. You can see a great example of a new radio community in No Signal: a London-based online radio that did not exist 3 months ago. It’s now huge, making content that leverages the fact young audiences are at home and want social engagement.
The station’s breakout show 10v10 pits two artists’ songs against each other, culminating in a public vote on Twitter. It’s a rough-and-ready gameshow, with participants communicating via Google Hangouts and streamed audio.
Nicki Minaj vs Lil Kim on 10v10 created some buzz, but it was J Hus vs Kobo Funds that hooked listeners in when the show trended No. 1 on Twitter in the UK (not least because the artists themselves got involved). More than a million tuned into Vybz Kartel v Wizkid on 3 May the following week – showing how a good idea, well executed, launching at the right moment can galvanise huge, new audiences.
Radio in lockdown isn’t just about new audiences, though. Radio has also, historically, been a powerful way of managing the mood of broad swathes of the populace – and that is particularly true now across the BBC’s range of radio brands.
Radio 6 Music’s morning slot has adapted mood and music throughout the pandemic to reflect listeners’ moods. At the start of Covid, the show’s music selections were gentle and calming, reflecting the uncertainty and trepidation of the audience. Now, matching the newfound liveliness of a lockdown-eased population more used to their home-bound routines, it feels like it has moved to a more upbeat kitchen disco style.
The Radio 3 Breakfast show is another good example – delivering a comforting selection of tunes that listeners can find solace in: music about relationships, about the value of life, or the beauty of the countryside. A recent series of compositions about bluebells struck a tone as the audience reminded themselves that although times are bad – there is light too.
The show’s presenter, Petroc Trelawny, recently played a series of songs inspired by museums around the country which are in need of support. It’s his duty, he feels, to support cultural institutions and practitioners “going through a terrible time”.
While specific in this instance, it does feel that the comment has much wider application – as radio truly feels like it is helping people across the country navigate a crisis.
That’s all we have for you this week – but if you want to chat about any of the above, or the media landscape in general (we’re not picky) feel free to drop us a message.
We’d love to organise a (socially-distanced) virtual coffee and a chat!