Affordable internet or quality content - what keeps audiences glued to their smart-screens

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Darshan Bhatt

Darshan Bhatt, Director, GoQuest Digital Studios writes about the factors that keep audiences engaged on their mobile screens and the content consumption trends on digital. 

At the beginning of 2017, India’s annual average data rates were expensive, being well above the 2% of the annual GDP/capita threshold for affordability as mentioned by the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Within the next few months however, one player changed it all-Reliance Jio. Now, average data rates stand at 1.3% of annual GDP/capita - much below the ceiling and plunging further every day.

 According to the ‘Internet in India 2017’ report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India & Kantar IMRB, India has a low internet penetration of only 35% but also has the second highest number of total internet users. Just like the answer to every other problem in our country, the sheer number of people in India gives us this very interesting distinction. And the biggest tool for Indians to use internet? Mobiles, of course. Our country first leapfrogged the days of mass fixed line internet and then somersaulted over 3G days to directly access more than 80% of its data through mobiles, a significant number of them on 4G networks.

And with so much internet and smartphone penetration, audience’s entertainment consumption behavior is bound to move online. And brands go where the consumer goes. Thus, mobile phone screens have gradually replaced TV as the most popular medium of content engagement. In fact, from 2016-17, India reported an astounding 9X growth in wireless internet data consumption, mostly on video-based content. People spend 7X more time on their phones than on TV, as per the Mary Meeker 2018 internet trends report.

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Does this mean that content creators and brands are now enjoying their days in the sun of the online world? Not in the least. Digital content is vast, competitive and easily-consumable. Thus, it has created a huge base of consumers who are anything but loyal. It is very easy for the fast moving audience to discard boring, irrelevant, non-useful, unemotional or non-engaging content at the drop of a hat, and they almost never come back. This keeps brands and content creators always on the move- jumping from one piece of content to another, shooting arrows in the dark and hoping silently that they end up hitting the key to massive subscribers and audiences!

Vicks India’s ad featuring Gauri Sawant, a transgender activist who adopts a child Gayatri, touched millions of hearts across the globe. While it may have appeared just like any other in-video advertisement on our smart-screens while watching something else, the unique content of the campaign and its high-production quality has made it the phenomenon it became. The success of such campaigns and other memorable advertisements shows that while it is easy to just be visible on the online space, one needs to produce quality content with a relatable theme and powerful presentation in order to be memorable.


Along with quality content, identifying the right channels of distribution is also a key factor behind making engaging content. Social media has become a complex and vast world today and content marketers need to understand the various dynamics and metrics at play in order to create the right social media mix for a content offering to achieve its optimum potential.  From micro-films to web-series, every type of content needs a well-thought put distribution blueprint to earn high revenue and remain relevant.

Let’s take YouTube for instance. It is the new favourite for brands to publish corporate brand videos, spending crores on making glossy content with a high production quality that will ultimately be skipped. Unless you, or the content you are associated with, already has 100,000 subscribers eagerly waiting for what you offer next, there is very little chance of brands actually managing to acquire consumer attention through YouTube. They may, in fact, only manage to earn unwanted ire in the process.

 YouTube is the new TV, and InstaTV (IGTV), Facebook Live is the new YouTube. With so many mediums, platforms and content, there cannot be any audience loyalty anymore. Unless, however, brands are able to create and associate a high quality ‘premium’ content via all channels.  What is ‘premium’ content you ask? It is content that is so amazing that it has the power to make an individual sit, watch, wait for the next episode and ultimately crave for anything and everything it is associated with, switching the mindset from ‘content is dead and boring ’ to ‘content is relevant.’

Although it is no rocket science, identifying and developing high pull value content is a tricky game. Broadly, however, there are 5 characteristics that define high pull-value content:

  1. Authentic
  2. Relatable
  3. Entertaining
  4. Has actual value
  5. Worth Sharing

While authenticity and entertainment quotient have been prioritized highly in this era of short, digestible nuggets of content, usefulness and shareability of content highlights the need for audiences to not only experience, but express their opinion on content. So content that is less obvious, highly relatable and sparks off a discussion has greater chances of clicking with modern audiences.

While inexpensive data is driving more users towards digital content consumption, high-quality content is necessary to keep them glued. Dedicated resources in ensuring high quality content production, identification of an ideal platform, fresh content delivery, relevancy, association with relevant brand influencers, collaborating with distributors etc. there are millions of angles that are involved in keeping a consumer happy with the ‘overall’ content experience.

Brands need to change their objective from reaching out to audiences to creating a ‘community’ of audiences in order to remain relevant in the digital-only entertainment of the future. Users need to feel a certain incentive in following a particular brand, page, etc. i.e. the hook that keeps them tied. Brands need to focus on making this ‘hook’ strong and be brutally focused on developing a holistic customer centric UX that guarantees multi-layered experiences. There is no B2B, B2C textbook oriented strategy development anymore.

Brands need to get ready to fight out a pitched battle and develop unique content, identify the correct platform and dedicate extensive resources to develop loyal audiences from a generation that is otherwise accustomed to discarding almost anything non-engaging with ease, in just a right swipe!

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