On November 21 I participated in a Think & Do workshop at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab (AIL). AIL was founded in 2010 as part of USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism to study the transformational impact of technology and cultural changes on the media industry. I’ve been a member of AIL’s Advisory Board since its founding.
The Lab conducts research projects in a number of areas at the intersection of media and technology. From time to time it hosts what it calls Think & Do events that bring together students, faculty members, research staff, industry executives, artists, entrepreneurs and policy makers to collaboratively explore new research ideas. The topic for this particular workshop was Leveraging Engagement. It was aimed at exploring new frameworks for fan engagement in a variety of media, including entertainment, music and sports.
Like few others, the media industries have been severely disrupted by the digital revolution and the forces of creative destruction. Everything seems to be changing at once, from the way content is produced and delivered, to the sources of revenue and profits. One of the major changes is the relationship between the creators and distributors of media content and their audience, especially their most committed audience members or fans.
What do we mean by fan? The briefing book prepared for the workshop draws a distinction between an audience of relatively passive listeners/spectators and fans. Fans are “enthusiastic followers or admirers… have a passion, are emotionally connected to the object of their passion, and experience their passion through their own subjective lens.”
The Internet, smartphones and related technologies, are enabling fans to play a more central and active role in the evolving media ecosystem. They are active participants in social networks. They are critics, co-creators, and brand influences. They are also potential consumers of all kinds of goods and services related to their passion.