Edutainment – Yes it’s a word!

When I was a young lad I never had much interest in the news. I found it pretty hard to sit down with my parents for what would equate to 30 minutes of some stranger lecturing me from the TV so I of course sourced information from various other places. Whilst this has changed recently (thank you whoever got me interested in politics, I now waste HOURS on the news!) I did start to notice a trend towards getting my information from non-traditional sources. It seems that I wasn’t alone in this fact as demonstrated by this article written about 5 years ago:

The 2004 presidential campaign is continuing the long-term shift in how the public gets its election news. Television news remains dominant, but there has been further erosion in the audience for broadcast TV news. The Internet, a relatively minor source for campaign news in 2000, is now on par with such traditional outlets as public television broadcasts, Sunday morning news programs and the weekly news magazines. And young people, by far the hardest to reach segment of the political news audience, are abandoning mainstream sources of election news and increasingly citing alternative outlets, including comedy shows such as the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live, as their source for election news.

Although a tad old (They of course couldn’t of included The Colbert Report, which came out a year later) this article does highlight some good points about the way young people are getting their information about political matters. I wouldn’t of believed the majority of it myself if it wasn’t for one of my not-so-politically-inclined housemates showing a keen understanding of American politics with little to no idea about Australia. Just so happens that he was an avid fan of both of these shows.

Edutainment, whilst sounding like some execu-marketing type word, is now becoming one of those areas where a significant amount of influence can be quantified. Whilst the Generation X crowd still had some respect for the good old fashion way of dredging up their political information the Gen Y crowd (who I am a part of) are increasingly connected and are very demanding on their information sources. The research seems to show that a typical gen y person will have an average attention span of about 20 minutes and you’ll find that most TV shows base themselves around this demographic. They also tend to embrace technology, cornering my demographic even further.

Not all of the edutainment programs out there are politically charged either. Probably the most famous example is Mythbusters, a show I thoroughly enjoy watching every week. Whilst the science can be a little shaky at times it’s still a great show to get people into science and engineering. Not all of these kinds of shows are American either, with shows like Good News Week here in Australia being highly popular even after being cancelled for several years.

I see these kinds of programs as an evolution in the industry. No longer are comedic and entertaining shows seen as just avenues to market products, the populace at large now enjoys a bit of education mixed in with their TV watching. Personally I love it, and there’s nothing better to me then a good documentary or a few episodes of Mythbusters blowing things up. Sure it might not be the best way to learn, but it’s by far the most appealing and it seems the rest of my generation agrees with me.

Now if only I convince an exec that a reality TV show in space is a good idea….. 🙂

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