Audience Engagement Guest Columns
3 mins read

The real-time future of audience engagement

When Covid took in-person sports, concerts and parties off the table, audiences took matters into their own hands. We saw how quickly they figured out how to enable existing tools and platforms like Facebook Live, Twitch and Discord for live experiences. It’s easy to recognize how massively real-time audiences have grown. 

The logical – but challenging – next step is to build new platforms to go deeper into the kinds of interactivity audiences now expect from these experiences. These business models need to monetize, rather than just provide unique interactivity.   

Moving beyond digital ad support 

Creators and tech providers need to think beyond the digital ad-supported model. Big Tech and regulatory privacy change increasingly complicate that model – and in any case, it’s suitable for only part of the live-streaming experience.

For example, Live Play Mobile sees three threads they’re “braiding” together: the ad-supported business (like what you’d get with a TV game show); transactional free-to-play (from the gaming world, where 24/7 engagement is possible); and the recognition economy (monetizing talent/fan interactions).

Leaving room for interactivity 

Users value the opportunity to interact more than simply having ad-free experiences. The first challenge is moving beyond a monetization model of advertising and subscriptions. In Brazil, for example, users commonly subscribe to streaming services, binge content, cancel their subscriptions, and eventually come back later to repeat the same. This is an untapped market in audiences that doesn’t equate premium with production values alone, or ad-free experiences. Diving into User Generated Content to supplement Professionally Generated Content may uncover great creators with the unrealized potential to monetize. People have different learning curves, but people of every age group want to feel connected so the more ways we can look at monetizing interactivity, the better.  

Guaranteeing attention is a new prospect and a valuable part of this new business model. There are different emotional canvases at work with some platforms. For example, when engaging audiences in games and getting to the recognition layer. At this layer, people are paying more to be seen or to get recognized by the talent in real-time or even offline, from a VOD standpoint. Gaming has proved to be a compelling place to investigate the emotional element. In a game, by definition, you’re being seen and this was psychologically very important through the isolating effects of the pandemic. But this isn’t just a pandemic matter – it’s a human matter.  

This concept can also be applied to rap battles as the audience can interact with and vote for their favorite MCs. By looking into experiences where emerging artists are matched virtually with producers, audiences have a new layer of interactivity and can even provide creative suggestions. What would be considered for niche, detail-oriented music superfans can prove to be an engaging experience for casual observers. Also, votes, music releases, and fan/artist interactions can all be monetized.  

Impacting the storyline 

There’s great promise in allowing audience interactivity to impact the show’s storyline. Take a talent competition show, for example. The stakes for the people on the show were high and well known, which makes it interesting to watch. But at home, the most you could maybe do is vote. The holy grail is figuring out entertainment where the stakes for the people on the show are very high and well known, and the stakes for the people at home are very high and well known, and the interaction between the two is closely connected. 

Now is the right time for media companies, tech companies and creators to think about their own specific holy grails. When the people on the screen and behind the screen are as invested, we have the ability to transform interactivity and take it to new heights.  

Real-time engagement enhances the audience experience like never before. But, to use the full capabilities of real-time engagement, you need to know your audience and set your goals. If you want to get ahead of the curve, start dreaming today and then build on your dreams for tomorrow. 

Tony Wang
Agora Co-Founder, Emerging Technology and Markets

About: Agora is the leading Real-time Engagement Platform as a Service (RTE PaaS) company. Agora’s mission is to make real-time engagement ubiquitous, allowing everyone to interact with anyone, in any application, anytime and anywhere. Agora’s platform provides developers with simple, flexible and powerful application programming interfaces, or APIs, to embed real-time video and voice engagement experiences into their applications.