13 Comments

Summary:

Most people just want to watch TV. They want it to be simple, and it should “just work.” Speaking today at GigaOM’s NewTeeVee Live conference, Peter Merholz, the president of user experience design firm Adaptive Path, explained, “People want the same media experience they’ve always had.”

Peter Merholz, President Adaptive Path, at NTVL 2010

Most people just want to watch TV. They want it to be simple, and it should “just work.” Those are some of the findings from research conducted through interviews with “normal people” by the user experience design firm Adaptive Path. Speaking today at GigaOM’s NewTeeVee Live conference, the firm’s president Peter Merholz explained, “People want the same media experience they’ve always had. Not everybody wants the latest whizzy, super complicated set of features and functions.”

Merholz called for minimal input and maximal output for consumers. “Pandora is an inspiration,” he said, “because of the ability to put in one thing and get this stream.” Another model to keep in mind? Old-school television sets. “When we were all kids, you turned on the TV and it just worked,” commented Merholz. “About the only hassle was moving the rabbit ears to get reception.”

Real simplicity occurs on at least two levels, according to Merholz: technical and experiential. “You can have something that’s simple, but has a lot of friction,” he said. Examples of technical friction include poor battery life and unreliable wireless connectivity, while experiential friction can involve finding stuff to watch, interstitial advertising or pay-per-item. If a service requires consumers to make a decision to buy “every time they want to watch an episode, I don’t think that’s a long-term winner,” he said. Later he commented that “Netflix has recognized the power of ‘frictionlessness,'” and “Cable isn’t going anywhere because it has the least friction of all these video experiences.”

The motivations for engaging with particular media at a particular time, meanwhile, are not simple. Predictable, perhaps, but more nuanced than black-and-white desires to be either informed or entertained. “People engage with media to change modes,” he said. They may want to be informed, kill time, be productive, focused, bond with others, or relaxed. “People have these predictable rhythms,” said Merholz, telling the NewTeeVee Live audience that “TV programmers are smarter than you. They understand that people want something different at different times of day.” With Netflix, TiVo, Apple TV and other services, he said, “all I have are lists.”

Watch live streaming video from gigaomtv at livestream.com

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. NewTeeVee Live 2010: Live Coverage: Video « Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    [...] What “Normal People” Want from TV [...]

  2. Hmm..a good reality check this.

    BTW, I echoed exact similar thoughts half a year ago. http://bit.ly/9Dp4Me
    ——
    The “” around normal people (in the title) is a bit intriguing to say the least. Are newteevee people (writers, commentators, readers) abnormal?

    1. Cheese, are you misreading the main point?

      Normal people are “people outside of the ‘youtube or ‘web series’ meme”. People who go to movies or watch TV to be entertained. The point of this speech is to reflect findings that the mainstream does not want sophisticated gadgets or transmedia storytelling. Just tell an original story and take people away from their reality. A creator, the story, and the characters should be silent.

      The ‘newteevee’ people you ask about are the ones who emulate entertainment and journalism, without much retrospective or introspective thought to the audience or what the audience wants. It is almost comical Cheese is intrigued. Creating a good show should NOT be a game of creating a transmedia, twittered maze of pseudo story with a Best Buy video camera, and then flaunt it to everyone as as if you are expecting them to immediately line up like it’s a new roller coaster. So try to picture in your mind this line of people waiting to ride your new rollercoaster. The rollercoaster itself is flat, unstable, and unpleasant to ride. And the only people in line are the ones involved in building it or the ones selling tickets. The normal people,… the majority,… the general audience– AKA the public (not engaged in the making of TV or movies) just drive by your rollercoasters scratching their heads while they continue looking for one of those old wooden coasters they enjoy the most, yet one they haven’t seen yet…

      So cheese, in every sense of the word, the newteevee people are abnormal in entertainment.

  3. baby rocking horse Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Watching TV is a past time for most of us. We watch our favorite TV show, news and daily gossip. Often, due to reasons like boredom, just want to kill time, got nothing to do or just be attentive of what is happening in the world around us that is why we watch TV. Maybe this is the reality, We can never tell the reason why people watch TV.

  4. The most interesting thing I take from this is that the streaming services should have a more sophisticated interface if they want to pick up the TV watchers. i.e., have the lists subdivided into moods or times of day so that people can sit down, and instead of pouring through lists of programming, the site will understand that on this day and time, the person is looking to relax, take a nap, catch up on news, etc.

    Great idea.

  5. Isn’t this EXACTLY what Apple’s Ping will do (eventually…)? Media specific twitter – the water cooler meets the web.

  6. Isn’t this exactly what Apple’s Ping will do (eventually..)?
    Media specific twitter – the water cooler meets the web.

  7. Finally, a tiny bit of common sense breaks through.

    I can’t see any Internet-based service currently in existence that will give me the same capabilities as cable TV. And by capabilities I mean simplicity and a boatload of content for one monthly fee to a single company.

  8. “People have these predictable rhythms,” said Merholz, telling the NewTeeVee Live audience that “TV programmers are smarter than you. They understand that people want something different at different times of day.” With Netflix, TiVo, Apple TV and other services, he said, “all I have are lists.”

    i pretty much never watch shows when they were on anymore… doing so usually means missing the beginning. but i have a dvr to get around that.

    and with cable and satelite you still have a list (if you’re lucky that list is more than just channel numbers to cycle through) to pick from… only difference is the list is made up of a smaller portion of all the possible content, because you can only see what’s on right that moment unless you’re recording it for later. in which case you have to wait for the recording to begin.

  9. NewTeeVee Live 2010 Was On Fire: Video « Thursday, November 11, 2010

    [...] ‘Normal people’ don’t want widgets on their TV screens or keyboards as remotes [...]

  10. Une journée à la NewTeeVee Conference, ou pourquoi faire compliqué quand les envies sont simples ? | ReadWriteWeb France Friday, November 12, 2010

    [...] on la regarde (écran dans le salon, tablets, smartphones et autres). En face, il y a toujours une envie de simplicité comme l’a très bien rappelé, Peter Merholz, président d’Adaptive Path. Il a d’ailleurs [...]

Comments have been disabled for this post