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Scripted TV programs have experienced a renaissance in the past several years by paying attention to story and character development on shows like Mad Men, House of Cards, and How to Get Away with Murder. But the speakers in this session argued that non-fiction programming is still largely in the gutter. Shows like the Real Housewives series focus on the most sensational people and make them do outlandish things. And it’s difficult for any new type of show to even get a chance to thrive on TV because they are slaves to the ratings.

Online has become a great opportunity for unscripted non-fiction programming such as AOL’s upcoming series “Connected.” The speakers were Dermot McCormack, President of AOL Studios, and the show’s producer Morgan Spurlock, best known for Super Size Me.

They talked about the approach to creating a show that pushed reality tv to a new place. Spurlock said “The selfie generation has made audiences infinitely more forgiving about how it looks, if the story is a good one.” When hand-held footage first became mainstream, there were some complaints from audiences, but the culture has shifted to an understanding that this is the trade-off: if we want a wide variety of content from all over the world, we need to accept all lighting conditions and filming techniques. The show “Connected” takes that idea even further, by using footage shot by the subjects themselves, the content becomes more trustworthy and more authentic, and is actually preferable to the audience.


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So what about making money? The good news for online content-creators is that sponsors want to be in that space, too. Instead of getting yanked off the air without achieving a sizeable audience right out of the gate, value is being measured all sorts of ways: conversations, shares, and on-demand views.

On-demand has also created a generation of binge-watchers. The latest season of House of Cards was just released and could be finished in a matter of days. (hours, if sleeping is optional for you) So AOL has chosen to release 4 episodes at a time every 4 weeks in an attempt to remain a part of the online conversation longer, and to grow more organically through social peer groups, AKA the new watercooler. Watch the trailer here.

Another interesting session was hosted by Sasha Pasulka, Director of Audience Product Marketing at Tableau Software. The topic was “This is your brain on visual data,” and it dealt with human’s ability to assimilate and understand data, and how images and shapes can make it easier.

These “pre-attentive visual attributes” allow the user to immediately see and comprehend complex data sets without having to scan and create comprehension. These include length, width, orientation, size, shape, curvature, enclosure, 2-D position, spatial group, color (hue), and color (intensity).

Check out this awesomely-nerdy video explaining pre-attentive visual attributes. Some slides below:


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