- David Dupuis
Operations Manager, News Online and Weather Systems
Media Operations and Technology
The proliferation of tablets, smartphones, and other smart devices in our society nowadays has resulted in a series of new opportunities for content producers to engage audiences in ways that were unthinkable only a few years ago. Because of these new opportunities for engagement through interactivity, social media integration, and other ways of leveraging the possibilities enabled by these new devices, CBC/Radio-Canada has been developing companion applications for smart devices associated to some of its more popular programmes, which brings us to the subject of this article: the Power & Politics app, which will be available in the third quarter of 2013.
Engagement Through Social Media
The main purpose of developing a companion app for Power & Politics has been to increase audience participation and engagement by leveraging the capabilities of social media.
As things stand right now, audience interactivity with the show while it is on-air can happen in a variety of ways: through the Internet, webpages, Facebook, and Twitter. Various panel discussion and interview segments take place during each show, and, between these, the audience is invited to participate by either tweeting the hosts or the show, or joining in the discussion on Power & Politics’ Facebook wall for chatting, as well as by voting in the daily Ballot Box Question, which is essentially a question of the day.
Figure 1 – The Power & Politics Daily Ballot Box Question
As you can see, the daily Ballot Box Question is created depending on whatever topic happens to be relevant at the time, and viewers are invited to cast their votes by either going to the Power & Politics Facebook page or website and choosing an answer from a series of options available. The results are constantly updated online and shown on-air towards the end of the show. This allows the audience to feel as though they are participating in a live show, rather than viewing something canned and being fed information; it allows them to feel as though they are actually joining in, and the hosts refer to this participation on air so that it has an impact on the content of the show.
For a while now, CBC/Radio-Canada has had a desire to open this participation up to the tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices that are so popular with our audiences nowadays, and allow them to follow more than just the Ballot Box Question, but a few other features.
One of these new features is access to a Twitter stream, in which viewers will be able to use their Twitter accounts to address Tweets to the hosts of the show and communicate their thoughts as to what is taking place on-air.
Following moderation to ensure that the Tweets are relevant to the matter at hand, selected ones will be displayed both on-screen, in a ticker in the lower third of the screen, but a complete stream of Tweets will be available on the Second Screen app, as there is only so much that can be shown on-air. All of the moderated Tweets will be available in one large newsfeed, allowing viewers to follow along whilst they are watching the show and view additional information and viewer participation on the companion app.
Of course, beyond that, the series of features already available on the website, such as the Ballot Box Question, will also be available on the app, in the interest of not splitting the audience’s attention amongst a variety of devices.
Figure 2 – The Mobile Device Version of the Ballot Box Question
The other exciting feature of CBC/Radio-Canada’s Power & Politics companion app is the Reactor, a tool to gauge the audience’s live reaction to viewpoints being presented during the show’s debate segments.
Figure 3 – The Reactor
The idea behind this functionality is to allow active audience participation during the show through the Second Screen app, as well as being able to view the reaction of the rest of the audience. Viewers will be able to use the slider on their touchscreen device to constantly update their reaction during the course of a debate. For example, if a debate segment were to feature a pair of politicians, one with largely unpopular views together with another with largely popular ones, the audience will be able to see that reflected live, in real-time, on their companion app as well as on their TV screen.
Part of the reason behind the development of this functionality is due to Power & Politics having a large, devoted group of viewers who enjoy interacting with the show, as can be seen by their already active engagement both through Twitter and the Internet, commenting on the proceedings on-air, and all of the interactivity features that CBC/Radio-Canada has added to the show over time have been eagerly adopted by the viewing audience.
Future Development & ROI
Given the above, the Corporation is fairly confident that this Second Screen app will provide a good test case, and, if it proves to be engaging and user-friendly, Power & Politics fans will be happy to join in this exercise. A series of focus groups has been conducted to test out the concepts that will be rolled out within this companion app, and some refinements have been made based on user feedback; overall, the reaction from test group subjects have been very positive.
In the interest of obtaining the best Return on Investment (ROI), CBC/Radio-Canada has focussed on making the Power & Politics companion app modular and, as such, the app should be available to any other show that might want to use it. From the moment of inception, the idea was always to make the app skin-able; there are certain branding elements that go into it that are easily swappable with other branding elements. Power & Politics has its own logo, look, colours, and the like; all of these elements are swappable, which could easily allow other programmes with similar requirements to recycle the Second Screen app for their own needs.
Everything is changing at a remarkable pace; the growing popularity of mobile devices and information consumption that is neither exclusive to the Internet nor Television places CBC/Radio-Canada at a point where the arbitrary distinction between the two can be overcome. As such, the Power & Politics Second Screen app is part of the collaboration between the TV and Web formats to collaborate and provide a shared experience for viewers; a shared experience in which they do not have to decide whether they are going to watch TV or browse the Internet, as they can just decide to do both. This provides the sort of forum in which people can consume content as well as share and talk about it with their friends, contrary to one in which they are just passive consumers. Essentially, it is all about providing more content with the same resources, and all of this is part of the Corporation’s strategy to allow Canadians to consume CBC/Radio-Canada’s content in ways that better suit the dynamic needs of our time.