In a society that is saturated with pictures, sounds, and moving images, it’s becoming more and more difficult for media companies and producers to find ways to stand out among the crowd. One way some producers have tried to do this is by inviting existing members of their audience to effect and influence how future content is created.
The video game Super Mario Maker, for example, allows players to create their own levels that other players can then attempt to get through or “beat.”
YouTube is also notable for being a space in which viewers can easily and immediately offer feedback to content creators. Rosanna Pansino, creator of baking-based YouTube channel Nerdy Nummies, also gets ideas for new pop culture-based baked good recipes by reading YouTube comments.
Neither of the above examples, however, is (in my opinion) as significant nor influential as what the producers of the CBS television show Survivor decided to do this past year.
Typically, the Survivor casting directors scour through audition videos and sit through hundreds of in-person interviews in order to find the combination of cast members who they believe will be the best fit for the show. In the spring of 2015, however, producers invited viewers to go online and vote for the previous contestants who they would most want to see get a chance to play Survivor a second time. The season that followed the nation wide vote consisted completely of cast members that audience members voted in and, effectively, these audience members were able to exert a considerable amount of influence over how the season turned out.
Other reality shows such as Big Brother often invite viewers to vote on things such as which cast members should receive special powers or be saved from elimination, but the Survivor vote allowed viewers to contribute to a television show that they loved in a way that they had previously been unable to do. As a result, these viewers were more invested in the success or failure of the cast members than ever before, as evidenced by the season’s high ratings and the enormous amount of activity generated about the show on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Television has been traditionally thought of as a passive medium, but innovative strategies such as those implemented by CBS prove that television producers – like YouTubers and video game producers – can give audience members a chance to have their voices heard.