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The Intellectual Role of TV Content and Why Networks Should Care

Posted February 25, 2015 by Editor
Categories: Hybrid Thinking

This post was written by Anna Zhi, a strategy consultant at Jump. You can find her on Twitter @azhyi, or get in touch by commenting on this post.

We are in a new era of media creation and consumption.

To date, The Interview has made $31 million in online and video-on-demand sales since its release right before Christmas—proof that you can successfully release a movie online. In only its second season, Netflix’s House of Cards—an online-only Netflix exclusive—received 13 primetime Emmy award nominations. Its lead man, Kevin Spacey, won his first Golden Globe for best actor in a TV series for his role in House of Cards—more proof that a network can successfully release an online only series. It’s clear that Netflix has emerged as a major cable competitor. In 2014, pay-TV subscriptions recorded their first full year of decline, and studies show that more people are abandoning cable (or never getting it in the first place).

This break from traditional TV means that new occasions around watching TV are proliferating. TiVo, the first behavior changer, allowed consumers to pause and play TV. Now, streaming and downloading means consumers can get entertainment anytime they want it, anywhere they want it. This freedom to watch gives rise to new types of on demand watching behavior, the most infamous of which is binge watching.

Binge watching is a well-known part of popular culture, so much so that scientists are studying the effects of our unconstrained media usage on the body, noting some negative effects. But television is also a positive force—people come home to unwind to sitcoms and enjoy favorite dramas with family. TV networks such as HBO and Showtime have shown that intellectually challenging content is not only successful, but generates customers that are loyal and willing to pay for content.

The amount of intellectual depth in different TV shows falls along a spectrum, from most to least intellectually demanding. Most people watch a variety of content along the spectrum, depending on their mood and appetite for certain types of entertainment, and they usually have habits and preferences for how much of different types of content they want to watch.

On the extreme end of intellectually demanding content are documentaries and other educational programming—content that people watch to better themselves. Next come the hard-hitting, award winning shows, from AMC’s Mad Men to Breaking Bad and, more recently, Netflix’s House of Cards. These are the types of shows where people pause and take a breath after each episode, read analysis, and, like great literature, write essays dissecting all the hidden meaning, layers, and development on every level of the show. These shows are latent with symbolism, meaning, and most of all, detail. To get the full experience, one must actively engage and pay attention to the bigger picture woven throughout the series, as well as the one being painted in the episode. These are not the types of shows meant for multitasking.

Edge down the spectrum a little bit and shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones or Showtime’s Spartucus appear, which have a fairly complex plot and are heavier than many shows, but also contain plenty of gratuitous sex and violence for pure entertainment purposes. Keep going down the spectrum and things become more soap-opera-like—think ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.

Then come sitcoms, the staple for a quick shot of feel-good. They generally reflect and validate the culture and values of their audience. Characters aren’t very complex, plot lines are straight forward even if a few episodes are missed, laughs rely on a set of obvious and beloved motifs, and usually by the end of the episode, everything is the same as it was at the beginning. Everyone has a favorite in this category, shows like CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and ABC’s Modern Family.

Finally come the guilty pleasures, from MTV’s Jersey Shore to 16 and Pregnant. These shows are formulaic, cheap to produce, require little emotional attachment, and are often used as background noise.

For consumers, this breadth of content can easily lead to overconsumption. Perhaps just like the food pyramid, a balance of content across the spectrum is the healthiest option for our content overloaded lifestyle. Everyone has his or her own tastes and preferences, so what exactly does a balanced media palate look like? Two to three heavy hitters, some nightly news and a few sitcoms? Who should be responsible for ensuring that our children consume a variety of content? Parents? Teachers? The government? Or the TV networks themselves?

In a capitalist society where people vote with their wallets, it’s become clear that it’s in networks’ best interests to offer up balanced options for viewing. Here are some lessons to take away in a new era of media consumption:

Just as consumers need balanced consumption, so too should networks provide balanced offerings. A media analyst recently called HBO “one of the most successful growth businesses in all [of] media.” That’s no accident in a time when consumers are choosing to pay for content from the more intellectually stimulating side of the spectrum and downloading other shows.

For networks, it’s no longer enough to make just sitcoms—they need to specialize and be known for a certain type of content that people will pay for, with other potential options and a more balanced spread across the spectrum. Produce a mix of content so the audience doesn’t get overwhelmed or bored. Networks need to care about how much intellectual depth their audiences consume if they want paying customers.

Certain shows are meant to be enjoyed in certain ways. Produce and release accordingly. The greater the information and artistry, the more intentional we should be about how we watch our shows. Binge watching may work for some, but in many cases, it actually decreases overall enjoyment around watching shows. Sitcoms may be fine for binge watching, but deeper and darker shows aren’t. Binge watching cuts out the time for meaning to sink in and analysis to happen, ruining the effect of cliffhangers and intentional pauses between seasons.

Networks need to take into account how consumers are most likely to watch depending on the medium. Where, when, and how a show is released will determine if people get together to throw a party to watch, stay up all night, or watch intermittently during a commute. Produce and release content in the manner most conducive to its consumption. Different content needs to be consumed in different ways.

Heavy-hitting content is here to stay. People are able to vote for the type of content they want with their clicks and their wallet. With the success of HBO, Netflix, and more recently, Amazon’s exclusive shows, viewers are showing that they want real content that is thought provoking and says something about our society. People are willing to subscribe and pay for more substantive content.

With high quality content, people are more likely to want to view it in a high quality setting, so they’ll dish out some money for the real version instead of a blurry low res one. Let consumers vote with their viewing. The most successful (HBO et al.) networks are already doing this. With cable on its way out, the rest of the big networks need to follow suit.

Offering up a spectrum of options for consumers will help ensure that networks have a sustainable audience to which they can continue offering content. The booming success of HBO, Showtime, and others proves as much. As consumers continue selecting the content they want, it’s only a matter of time before those networks that offer only certain types of content will die out.

Networks such as MTV, TLC and Cooking Channel are already struggling and attempting to produce more intellectually demanding content. Balanced consumption should be an integral element in any media company’s product strategy today.

Need to Solve Tough Problems? Go Back to Kindergarten

Posted February 12, 2015 by Editor
Categories: Leadership

This post was written by Mike Smith, Director at Jump Associates. You can get in touch with him by commenting on this post.

I had a revelation at work the other day. I needed to build a daily schedule for a team tasked with solving a gnarly problem. It was going to require focused individual thinking, group discussion, and careful execution to solve. But, when I finished planning I realized it looked exactly like something I’d seen before.

If tackling tough problems, keeping people engaged, and making sure things stay on track all while encouraging personal growth doesn’t seem familiar, I’ll give you a hint: it looked a lot like a day at kindergarten.

My method of scheduling tasks has been influenced by Tony Schwartz’s book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, in which he proposes that the core issue we face in today’s business world isn’t one of time management, but of energy management. By structuring our days around focused blocks of dedicated time with discrete start and finish lines and then periodically replenishing our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual states, people get more done and stay happier.

It’s hard to imagine a group of people with greater peaks and valleys in energy through the day than kindergarteners. Some of the same techniques that worked for their classroom will work equally well in your office. Here are five principles you should try.


Define bounded work blocks with distinct starts and endings to break the day into a series of discrete, focused activities. 

People aren’t like computers; feeling in the groove may make folks want to work longer, but our work suffers when we run for long periods of time. My local kindergarten (I Googled it) has class periods that are 90 minutes long. Mimic those 90-minute periods and enforce their boundaries as much as possible.

Embed physical renewal periods between focused work blocks to recharge and prepare for the next task. 

Schools put recess between class periods for the same reason: the physical activity resets and recharges kids’ brains. Your team probably isn’t made up of 5-year olds, but this principle still rings true. Take a walk. Run out for coffee with the team. Do a drawing. It helps. Seriously.

Equip your workspace to give folks the opportunity to work movement into the day. 

Schools have learned that PE class helps kids do more than prepare them with lifelong dodgeball skills; it helps them perform better in their academic classes as well. In fact, regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills. Balance balls and chin-up bars can be used to keep focus for those who need to move their bodies to stay engaged. For others, those same tools might be just what’s needed for renewal between work blocks.

Set aside time for folks to go deep on individual work with the support of others, for times when two heads are better than one. 

Whether for independent study in the classroom or solo time for homework in the evening, many kindergartens encourage solo time for kids to do tough thinking on their own with teacher and adult supervision for those tough questions. To mimic kindergarten structures, schedule some of this solo-think time into your day—but don’t forget to ping expertise of others for specific questions or times you need a sounding board.

Set rules about when and where potentially distracting inputs are allowed. 

Recent research has shown that even just a heavily decorated classroom can disrupt attention and learning in young children. No matter how much we like to think we are, people aren’t great at multi-tasking. Need to knock out 100 to-dos? Great. Block it out and do it distraction-free. Need to respond to the morning’s emails? Great, do it. But don’t do it in a way that’s disruptive to other kinds of focused work.

The next time you and your team are tasked with solving a problem and having trouble staying focused enough to do it, think back to your days in kindergarten. Say what you will about the current state of public schools and the lagging state of education, but the basic structure of kindergarten and elementary school does a better job at maintaining people’s energy throughout the day than most offices I’ve worked in over the years.

photo credit: Stop when... via photopin (license)

Hospitals are Becoming Financially Responsible for Things that Happen Outside the Hospital. Now What?

Posted February 9, 2015 by Editor
Categories: Healthcare

This post was written by Ryan Baum, Director here at Jump. You can find him on Twitter @RMBaum, or get in touch with him directly by commenting on this post.

Last Monday, we were met with big news about a change in Medicaid reimbursement policy that’s going to change the way doctors and hospitals get paid.

Even with all the excitement around ACOs, most health care today is still paid for using a “fee-for-service” model. That means the doctor or hospital gets paid for each service they provide regardless of whether the patient gets healthy or not. What the Obama administration announced last Monday, however, is that by 2016, 85% of Medicare payments will be tied to outcomes.

There are still many concerns about the right way to measure “outcomes,” but regardless of that debate, this is still a big deal. As recently as 2011, nearly 0% of Medicare payments were made on alternative pay-for-care models. That number has grown to about 20% today, and we’re already seeing improvements in metrics like hospital readmission. With this new focus—and with proof from the past few years that a model like this improves outcomes—this could have a big impact on the way that care is delivered.

As with all big changes in policy or business, some organizations will struggle with this while others succeed. But one thing is pretty clear: similar to the way schools began “teaching to the test” when school funding became tied to test metrics, hospitals and care providers are going to begin their equivalent of “teaching to the test.” In practice, that means increasing scrutiny around metrics that are likely to impact their reimbursement rates.

One such area that’s certain to get significant attention in the next few years is hospital readmissions. With more at stake financially, we are about to see hospitals and businesses invest significantly more money to improve the transition patients make back to their home. This period of transition is incredibly interesting and challenging for hospitals because even though the patient is physically leaving the contained ecosystem of the hospital, the hospital is still financially responsible for making sure that the patient is not readmitted.

Of course, transition care isn’t an entirely new space. There are reimbursement codes for transition care management and many companies are actively trying to figure out how best to support hospitals as they transition patients home. This includes everything from companies building care management platforms like Qualcomm’s HealthyCircles to health education companies that provide educational pamphlets and videos like Elsevier’s ExitCare. But these companies, as well as hospitals, should prepare for a large influx of investment and competition in this space.

The hospitals and companies that are going to emerge successful from the next few years have a difficult adoption problem to solve. They need to balance the often-conflicting needs of patients–who want to return to a life that feels normal–with the needs of the hospital –which wants to change the patient’s life to protect them from a world that got them into trouble in the first place.   But not even that nuanced understanding of human behavior is enough. These organizations will also need to design compelling solutions that integrate into a complicated healthcare business model that has technologies and reimbursement protocols that are constantly in flux.

Succeeding in the world of transitional care will require strong leadership and the unique ability to develop a new business offering in a hybrid way. That means uncovering the needs of multiple stakeholders, designing a compelling new offering, and developing a business model that fits into a system that’s currently in flux. This will require increased attention and experimentation now—before it really starts impacting the bottom line.

Those who can figure out how to effectively manage the moment of transition will win big—both financially and by improving the lives and outcomes of millions of people. Those that don’t will be left behind with a very expensive and outdated model.

photo credit: Stethoscope via photopin (license)

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