Facebook, the saviour of the Welsh language online?

This week S4C announced that its short form video content had been viewed over 2,200,000 times during the month of December 2016 alone. A stunning 300% increase on the figures for August the same year.
Facebook was responsible for over 90% of the viewing. So what does this mean? It’s good news, yes?
Before answering these questions, I must declare that the practice of uploading short form content from existing programming and content specifically commissioned for the digital space stems from the digital strategy I created and put in place whilst responsible for S4C’s digital activities. I, amongst others, had foreseen the changes that were taking place within the digital landscape but particularly in relation to Facebook. Social media platforms were becoming broadcast spaces in their own right, spaces where audiences chose to view content. By the end of 2014 Facebook was delivering 1 billion video views per day, by the end of 2015 this figure had ballooned to 8 billion viewing sessions per day. S4C’s statistics suggest that the increase for 2016 will be greater still.
So in answer to my first question, what does this mean? Broadcasting is evolving, the big screen in the living room still dominates our viewing habits, but we are now consuming content not “TV”. This is an important point. Content from an increasing number of sources and formats. The focus on success and failure, especially here in Wales and in relation to the Welsh language, is based on viewing and listening figures, figures supplied by BARB and RAJAR. But there is little or no recognition, or attention, given to the fact that audiences actual content consuming habits are changing.
These statistics from S4C are BIG news, but how much attention has been given to them by the Welsh media this week? Is it a lack of understanding that is stifling discussion and analysis?
What is apparent is that there is an audience for Welsh language content on Facebook, but, and it’s a BIG but this does not necessarily convert in to “TV” viewing. The audience viewing this content on Facebook is younger, 70% of the audience for S4C’s sianel 5 on Facebook is under 45 whereas the audience profile for most of S4C’s TV viewing is 65+ according to BARB.
One hopes that this increase in the viewing of short form Welsh language content on social media networks, especially amongst the young, will lead to greater awareness of S4C and Radio Cymrus scheduled output. But, yes another but, it is vital that we recognise the value and importance of this “on-line” viewing of short form content, and remember that this viewing is different to traditional TV viewing. It is just as, if not more, important than the “traditional TV” viewing habits of the 60+’s.
With an independent review of S4C on the not so distant horizon it is vital that this new way of delivering and consuming content is given the recognition, weight and attention it so rightly deserves.

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