3 ways of using serialized contents to keep the audience engaged

In a world where everything and anything is instantly available and all at once, serialized contents, in which contents are published piece-by-piece at regular intervals, might seem a little bit out of place. It’s slightly anachronistic to be sitting in front of your TV watching the same series every week when people can load up all episodes of any Netflix series the minute they’re released.

The longevity of serialized contents

The thing is though; serialized contents are still highly popular. In fact, we’ve already seen in the past few years of contents leveraging the inherent nature of the form to still keep the audience engaged during the in-between. The most prominent example is a television series from HBO, Westworld. Instead of a simple piece of entertainment, Westworld stylizes itself as a highly elaborate puzzle box where each week, a new piece of the puzzle is given to keep the fans stringing along until the big finale, in which everything is revealed.

What this results in is that even though the series itself airs once a week, conversation and theories continues to garner headlines throughout the week. It’s different from Netflix properties, where series are only in the headlines for a short period until it’s replaced by another Netflix property. This is one of the reasons why Netflix produces contents at an alarming rate, it is pretty much the only way they can keep those eyes glued to the screen.

The inherent appeal of serialized contents

An element of success in marketing is to keep your audience on their toes. True, you want to wow your audience with your contents but you also want to ensure that they keep coming back for more by holding something in reserve. This idea fits in line with serialized contents as instead of unleashing what you have all at once, you keep them dripping at a steady pace, which could help you in a number of ways, such as:

It keeps people invested and engaged

People’s attention spans are getting shorter, that’s why pretty much everything comes with a notification these days to remain people what they’re forgetting. With the amount of content floating around the internet at any given moment, it’s easy for people to treat contents like junk food, soon to be forgotten after they’re done consuming them. Serialized contents try to rectify this by promising better and bigger things in the future.

Look at the popularity of Game of Thrones for example, which still manages to dominate conversations around the internet even though it’s been around for 8 years. Even when the show’s not on the air, conversations around what’s going to happen next still pops up every now and then. Serialized contents keep people invested and engaged even when it’s not on.

It allows for an in-depth look at a subject

Let’s say you’re doing a history on Apple the company. If you’re just writing a single post on that subject, it will inevitably gets truncated. Using serialized contents however allows you to explore further each stage of the company. By doing this you can fully trace the company’s history, all throughout Steve Jobs’ garage, the first Macintosh, the departure and return of Jobs, the revolutionary iPod and iTunes store and ends with what the company is most known for today, the iPhone.

It allows you incorporate users’ feedback

The beauty of serialized contents is that it’s a process not a product and at each stage of the process, you can analyze how your audience is responding and take those responses into account in crafting the next part of your contents. Perhaps there’s a passage in the earlier parts that your readers are finding particularly interesting? You can explore that idea further as you move along.

The risks of serialized contents

Of course, serialized contents aren’t exactly free from faults either. To begin with, it’s easy for serialized contents to feel fragmented if either you don’t know what you’re doing or it was originally one large piece of content that was split into several parts. If it’s a subject that doesn’t warrant more than one post, don’t try to split them and pad them out with purple prose and irrelevant remarks, those things are surprisingly easy to detect.

More importantly, try to stick to a schedule and ensures that each part carries with it the same level of quality. The tricky thing to manage with serialized contents is that expectations are always abound and when the next part doesn’t arrive in the time it was expected or if the quality has slipped from the previous ones, gaining your readers’ trust again can be difficult. There’s a balance to be kept in making the first part as good as possible to keep them invested while making sure that your sophomore effort is just as good.

George Papdan
George Papdan
CEO of Papdan.com, a creative agency providing a suite of web development, design, E-Learning, application and mobile solutions, as well as SEO services.
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