Netflixification (and new research that will affect your webinars, virtual classes, and livestreams)

Changes in the broader culture regarding how people consume content will affect how people want your content.

Let me repeat that. And then I’ll share some recent research.

Changes in the broader culture regarding how people consume content will affect how people want your content.

And while I’m sure it’s not true everywhere in the world, here in the United States consider what has happened with television by way of a question:

When was the last time you planned your life around watching a show you like at 8pm on Tuesday evening?

Young folks may say, “Never.” But a GenXer like me will likely we laugh. We don’t do that anymore.

Except in two contexts.

Broadly speaking, people still want sports live versus on-demand. And to a degree the same is true with news.

I call it “Netflixification.”

Need some academic validation?

Recent research published in Biomechanical Engineering Education substantiates my thesis (at least in their specific context). Look at the chart from Synchronous vs Asynchronous vs Blended Remote Delivery of Introduction to Biomechanics Course and do that math: of the 86% of students expressed a preference, 78% of those essentially said, “Give me the video to watch” for the lecture.

Put another way, they’re saying, “Your talking head lectures are less valuable to me when they’re in real time” (and you know I think this is a failure of instructional design or the deliverer, not the medium itself).

Netflixification of webinars and virtual classrooms

Of course, a broad problem is that many communicators still over-rely on lecture (in any context). Even interaction with a non-human can improve results.

Another broad problem in the synchronous communication/collaboration industry: No vendor is going to tell you that sometimes you shouldn’t use their platform. And to be fair, if I worked for one of them I would, too. But to badly paraphrase Abraham Maslow, to those who swing hammers, all the world’s a nail.

The bottom line

Hear me clearly: If your takeaway from this is, “I should do more on demand content,” I will have failed. I’m an advocate for finding and delivering what is uniquely valuable about real time content and how to do more of that. That’s what I help people with professionally (that and finding the right strategic balance between modalities).

There is a time for lecture. We’re not kicking that modality to the curb.

There is a time for live (synchronous). Especially if you’re concerned about the role of human connectedness.

But the world, broadly speaking, is going to increasingly be asking, “Why should I show up to your event or class at 11am on Wednesday if I could have just watched a video?”

Which means that you should have a strategy to optimize the value you deliver based on the the modality.

5 thoughts on “Netflixification (and new research that will affect your webinars, virtual classes, and livestreams)

  1. Lorene Lichty

    NArrated with live sessions

  2. Warwick Merry

    Love this!! Thanks Roger

  3. James Booth

    I agree, but, this is getting confused with pre-recorded broadcast style presentations – the event industry is using pre-recorded video type presentations played in live webinars followed by a Q&A as they dont want the technical struggle and pressure of of a live speaker. However, the sweet spot (and best use of time) is only to have the Q&A, and, get people to watch the video in advance… but, presenters (and marketing people) wont do this as they are afraid no one will arrive for live Q&A ! This shows that “live” is being used to capture audiences, and, by en large, the content itself is not really interesting.

    1. TheVP

      I think we’re swimming in the same pool, James. Thanks for dropping by.

      I think there is a time/place (pun fully intended given this post: for any media and approach.

      That said, I’ve been known to ask audiences, “If you showed up to an in-person presentation and the speaker said, “We’re going to watch a video of me for 45 min, then take questions), what would you think?” They chuckle. And some fidget nervously.

      Pre-recorded content works great for flipped classrooms. It’s also a killer backup to have in the event of a presenter emergency (I worked with a client once where the speaker was a surgeon who was on call — we had a backup plan!).

      And pre-recorded content works great if you’re Peter Jackson, JJ Abrams, or Steven Spielberg.

      But you aren’t.

      To your point, a lot of this is driven by event producers trying to save time and reduce variables because more often than not, they’re “success” is measured by having no glitches versus teach a speaker how to keep the audience on the edge of their virtual seats. And yes, advertising something as live and calling it such because someone can chat or ask a question at the end is, IMHO, misleading (now those marketers start fidgeting a bit).

      To be fair, many virtual presentations are by subject matter experts who could use some help in the presentation skills department.

      But honestly, if approached the right way, I’ve NEVER had someone be anything but thankful that you helped them be better (and, despite my bloviating here, I seriously care about meeting someone where they’re at at helping them get to the next place in competence and confidence). I think they sense that I actually care about their success. 🙂

      Anyway, keep up the good work, James. The bar is low, opportunity is great, and the world needs more ‘good people helping good people.’

  4. Neale Blackwood

    Thanks for sharing Roger, interesting findings for students. To also paraphrase Maslow – if you have a hammer go find the nails.
    With a skill-based topic like using Excel I think seeing it live (with no editing or re-takes) is a useful training technique as the students also get to see any mistakes and the person recover from the mistakes. We are all human and seeing errors live is helpful. Also live allows better interaction for questions answered on the screen rather than just the chat box.
    Pre-recorded content will always have its place – thats what Youtube is for, but seeing it live and interactive has many benefits.

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