Channel 4 – Scores!

Channel 4 Education has just announced that they’re scrapping a load of television content in favour of interactive web offerings. Media Guardian has the details.

They’re cancelling a lot of Education TV – which makes sense, as most of it was on while the kids were in school. (How did that seem like a good idea at the time?) Instead, they’re spending £6 m on a variety of projects – including two games, one of which is an ARG.

The philosophy behind this move is instructive. Matt Locke, of Ch 4 Education, explained the ethos of these projects to Kevin Anderson of Strange Attractor:

Matt said that when they were thinking about the projects, they focused on five characteristics:

  • About being playful. That’s not about being trivial, but about participation. Matt says that this teen audience does things without permission such as creating blogs, podcasts or their own music. They do this without training. “This is about playful exploration.”
  • A social element. Teens go through a lot of change 14-19. They are trying out different selves and normally getting feedback from other teens, their parents and teachers. But now there are so many ways for teens to experiment with themselves and get feedback from a much broader context. Many projects will have social network component, but not just because social networks are the new media fascination de jour, Matt said. Social networks will provide teens with this broader context for social feedback.
  • Exploration. BBC tells you what you need to know. Channel 4 helps you ask the right questions.
  • The projects are built around tools and spaces that teens use – Bebo, MySpace, Flickr or YouTube – instead of creating our own tools
  • They had to be fun.

Let’s see – playful, participatory, social, exploratory . . . all gaming dynamics. And – what’s that, Matt?

Cross platform commissioning is not about asking: Is it tele or is it web? But where is the audience? We have to commission for our audience wherever they are.

Matt has a point, which applies from the point of view of a journalist. You can do some of the best journalism in the world, but if it’s packaged so that only 50-year-old white males are interested in experiencing it, it’s not doing much good to anyone else. I’d say that’s a journalistic failing. The people running Channel 4 Education have sensibly adopted a platform-agnostic approach to reaching their target audience most effectively.

In this case, being platform-agnostic leads to approaches that use game dynamics. Their target audience breathes social networking. They play, participate, explore, socialize, have fun. And they’re used to doing all that in a virtual space as well as meatspace.

So how else are you going to reach them?

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