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Water Cooler Conversations Are Going Digital

August 15th, 2019   ||    by Callie Wheeler

How many of us are still having water cooler conversations? While we’re at it, can you even have a water cooler conversation without the water cooler? (Answer: yes.) Whatever your office’s version is—a coffee pot, snack counter, or ping-pong table—chances are conversations occur less than they used to, with most coworkers staring at their phones and sharing their opinions on social media.

The corporate world is noticing it, with sites like Lead Change trying to equip leaders with the tools necessary to connect with workers in an environment that makes in-person conversation more difficult.

But beyond the serious stuff, there’s the usual office chatter. Is anyone talking about last night’s episode of The Bachelorette or that crazy commercial they keep seeing? In a world with fewer water cooler conversations, are we keeping the conversation going elsewhere?

Dispelling the Myth of Disappearing TV

First, let’s get one thing straight: people are still watching TV. Game of Thrones is a great example of a typical water cooler show, with viewers from every location, background, profession, and status imaginable. As Time pointed out, this kind of show is rarer than it used to be, and some worry the series is the last of its kind.

But don’t forget live television. Beyond the popular series that sparks conversation, like Game of Thrones or This Is Us, events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the Oscars still create cultural touchstones to be discussed for days after.

Reactions Are a Vital Part of the Process

While some television viewing is time-shifted, and streaming is a normal part of the equation, reactions to big moments and reveals are still absolutely part of the fun. For savvy advertisers and broadcasters, live conversations on platforms like Twitter are embraced, as they reveal an engaged audience. The Wrap detailed how networks are leveraging these digital conversations by helping to “drive conversation, support fandoms, and create a sense of tune-in urgency.”

To avoid spoilers, fans tune in at air time or avoid the internet until they’ve viewed an episode, which should tell us two things. One, ad space is valuable during these live viewings, and two, water cooler conversations are happening online and in-person.

A Longer Shelf Life

In addition to the allure of live television and spoiler-free, must-see TV, advertisers and broadcasters alike can also celebrate content’s longer shelf life. Between “best of” ad lists that come out after events like the Super Bowl and YouTube clips, GIFs, and memes shared in text messages and social media, today’s audiences keep the conversation going in a variety of ways.

So next time you’re at the “water cooler” and everyone’s staring at their phones, maybe think of it this way: everyone’s still having a conversation, it’s just migrated to the digital world.

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