From eyeballs to clickthrough – The role of the user / consumer as actor in the television calue network as TV makes the transition to a digital, connected era
In my doctoral research the focus is on the changing role of users/consumers as actors in the television value chain as TV makes the transition to a digital, connected era. How does the role of the user change in relation to the affordances digital/connected television offers? Since digitisation, TV is becoming a networked digital technology, featuring personalisation and interconnectivity. This means a shift from traditional television as a one-way mass media model to a two-way interactive model (Carlson, 2006: 97-98) or to media of mass self-communication (Castells, 2009: 70). With digital television, users – theoretically - have the opportunity to increase their control, which could lead to changes in the television business model. This model relies on the commodification of audiences, i.e. television broadcasters selling audience attention to advertisers in order to be able to invest in the production or acquisition of programmes. Through standardised audience measurement, the watching labour of the audience is sold to advertisers (Smythe, 1977: 3). Advertisers play a crucial role in the business model for commercial television as they pay for advertising space within certain programmes, thus providing broadcasters with the means necessary to create and aggregate content. The price for the advertising spot on linear TV depends on the ratings provided by the ratings industry (Seles, 2010: 6). Audience measurement also enables broadcasters to evaluate their programming and media planners to evaluate their campaigns, based on the amount of viewers (Berte, 2010: 318-319). Audience measurement as it is organised now does not take into account viewers that watch content through different platforms. It is based on ‘exposure’, or on the mere opportunity audience members have to see a specific advertisement. Even if the audiences’ way of watching TV and avoiding advertising has not changed that much with digital viewing as opposed to analogue viewing (Van den Broeck, 2011: 429), what has changed is the ability to measure when advertisements are being skipped through via the set-top box (STB), or the ability to measure when people access content through different devices. Although the data gathered through the set-top-box are not standardised and therefore not that user-friendly for advertisers and media planners, the possible development of more accurate audience measurement can be seen as both an opportunity and a threat for television advertising. Advertisers and media planners are now being challenged to find new ways to reach their target audience in a personal way that fits with the possibilities digital television offers its users, broadcasters and distributors (Griffiths, 2003: 119). Of course, it is also important to investigate at what cost these evolutions might take place. Since these new opportunities raise questions concerning privacy and the invasion or protection of privacy, it might be opportune to investigate how convergence of online technologies and TV might evolve in terms of audience privacy, perception and empowerment.