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Entertainment in the Era of the Selfie

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This blog first appeared on Edelman.com.

Selfie-mania has taken center stage at the Oscars, the Oval Office and, of course, most of our Facebook feeds. Perhaps, then, it is little wonder that the once innocent form of self-expression is now transforming how we enjoy entertainment.

In Edelman's eighth annual study on how and why people consume and share entertainment, we found consumers in the U.S., UK and China want their entertainment "selfie-style"-- centered on the individual, immediately gratifying, engaging and sharable across social networks.

We believe our selfie-obsessed world is indicative of consumers' desire to be active participants in their entertainment, which can translate into big opportunities for brands who can help empower that engagement. Brands that can successfully deliver or enhance compelling entertainment stand to gain and grow.

"Binge-Watching" Escalates

The study's findings show that with skyrocketing access to online and on-demand content, binge-watching TV shows is pervasive across all markets (U.S. -- 94 percent; UK -- 89 percent; China -- 99 percent).

The phenomenon is fueled by the availability of high-quality, engaging entertainment. Contrary to speculation that increased binge-watching is driven largely by the social currency associated with being up to date, our findings indicate that the primary drivers are actually internal factors.

Satisfying internal needs appears to be a primary driver for why people binge-watch -- 72 percent of binge-watchers report that they do so to "know what happens next" and 57 percent do it to "feel caught up."

The ability to "participate in conversations" and avoid "hearing about entertainment before getting to watch it" are also factors, but less so. In other words, it's the selfie-centered factors that seem to matter most.

Multi-Screen Moments for Consumers AND Brands:

We know that today's consumers use other devices while enjoying entertainment, regardless of the source of the content.

Half of respondents would be likely to enhance their entertainment experience by using an app or website not designed by the actual creator of the entertainment. That leaves tremendous opportunity for brands who want to enhance consumers' experience, providing ways to market the empowerment of consumer engagement their way.

Good Content and Brand Recommendations Spur Purchase

So what will consumers do if they find content compelling?

In the U.S., 53 percent will recommend it to a friend or colleague; 41 percent will pay attention to future content, 37 percent will buy products or services and one-third will share it with their social network.

If respondents consider the entertainment boring, far less will criticize that content to a friend, ignore future content and share negative opinions online. It seems as though consumers want to engage so much with entertainment content that they are less likely to negatively impact poor content than they are to positively impact compelling content. This gives brands the license to explore how to participate in creative ways.

Perhaps most notably, U.S. respondents consider recommendations from brands to be as important as positive reviews from professional critics as a spending driver.

Entertainment is a Truly Global Connector

Today, entertainment is not only global in origin, but also in viewership, reverberation and ability to break down barriers.

We live in a world where a 34-year-old Korean pop musician made online video history when his viral video, "Gangnam Style," became the first video ever to exceed one billion views and, recently, made history again by hitting the two billion mark on YouTube.

Interestingly, only three percent of "Gangnam Style" views on YouTube have been from inside South Korea. Psy's success is a great testament to the universal appeal of entertainment especially when you consider that, when asked, many don't even realize the song is actually sung in Korean.

The numbers prove this to be true. Nearly three-fourths of respondents in the U.S. said that seeing entertainment online has increased their sense of global connection. In the U.S., nearly half (47 percent) said they have watched entertainment in another language -- higher than many may have guessed.

In fact, people are so passionate about entertainment that they converse on social media about it as much as they do their personal relationships. U.S. respondents who use social media are as likely to share content about entertainment as they are content about their friends and family.

Today's global consumers expect unprecedented control over what they watch and when and where they watch it. They want content that is instantaneous, self-revolving, engaging in the moment and engaging others at their choosing.

In short, they want entertainment "selfie-style." Now that you think about it, don't you?