peer review – ‘should you binge this’.

Concept

Should You Binge This is a blog dedicated to reviewing TV shows available on Netflix and advising readers as to whether or not they are worthy of ‘binge-watching’.  The artefact was created by Max Clement, who in the past has created various iterations of projects centred on television and film.  This semester he chose to isolate the ‘binge-watching’ niche as a sole focus for the project.  The goal for the artefact was to assist viewers in selecting a new show to ‘binge-watch’ by providing stellar examples of suitable shows.  The artefact exists primarily as a WordPress blog and currently has 147 followers, and utilises Reddit and a Twitter account (@shouldyoubinge) as a way of promoting content.

 

As someone who generally enjoys consuming media as a binge-watcher, I was immediately engaged with Max’s project as its use for someone like myself was evident.  As we enter an era where online viewership is at its highest and there is more content than ever available at our fingertips, having a resource to help determine whether a show is worth investing in is useful to many modern viewers.

Method

Max’s method involves watching a show on Netflix in its entirety and then commenting on it, noting the length of episodes, cast and basic plot.  After watching, he creates a list of pros and cons, eventually informing the reader whether he sees a show as ‘binge-worthy’.  This style results in short, yet informative blog posts.  The first four blog posts follow this format; however, his most recent blog posts have shifted from a list of pros and cons to a more fleshed out opinion piece on each show.  This iteration is first seen with a piece on cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Following the post’s success on Reddit, each subsequent review post has continued to be written in this format, choosing to focus on distinct and unique highlights in each show.

 

As previously mentioned, every blog post is structured differently which means that although posts are tailored to suit the show, it can make it a little frustrating to browse the articles for shows.  At the time of writing there have been 7 review posts published, each focused on a different show deemed ‘binge-worthy’ by Max – Taboo, Black Mirror, Doctor Who, Archer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, BoJack Horseman and Maniac.  There is also a Halloween-centric post that provides suggestions for appropriately scary shows to watch.

Utility and Trajectory

One of the highlights of Max’s digital artefact is its strong utility – to provide an informed opinion on whether a show is worth binge-watching.  My own personal experience with Netflix and other streaming sites has found that there is a need for opinion pieces to determine whether a show is worth watching – in the abundance of content available, I will often resort to asking friends for recommendations or searching online for shows with a positive response.  This manner of searching has also helped me to avoid shows that I would dislike.  The blog would appeal to those who, like me, prefer to view their content online and at their own pace.

With a project such as this, it is difficult to create a feedback loop as providing advice is generally a one-sided endeavour.  By utilising Reddit threads and a Twitter account, as well as encouraging readers to comment their thoughts directly on the blog, the project makes itself more accessible and further reaching.  The Reddit thread, in particular, brought a large influx of visitors and views to the blog and encouraged a conversation to the point where Max was banned from the r/brooklynninenine subreddit.

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Visual demonstrating the influx in visitors to the site after posting (and being banned) on the Brooklyn Nine-Nine subreddit

The strongest element of Max’s digital artefact is the ‘binge-worthy’ element, as it makes his product unique.  I think it would be beneficial for the project to continue onwards with this as its main strength, in order to differentiate between shows that are worth watching, and those which are appropriate to ‘binge-watch’.

Iterations

Although the blog’s initial premise has remained the same throughout the development of this digital artefact, the format in which it is being presented has changed.  Visually the website is clean and minimalistic.  The blog itself has undergone visual changes as a result of feedback received from the blog’s earlier, more cluttered style.  It is currently in its third and simplest iteration.

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The blog’s original layout.  This was changed after feedback determined that it was too difficult to read.

As mentioned earlier, the artefact’s blog post style has changed from pros-and-cons to opinion pieces.  I believe this was a great decision for the future direction of the blog.  Changing his style of writing has benefitted Max by allowing him to post his content on Buzzfeed Community, where the newer style of writing is more suited.  The first instance of this, the post on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, was the blog’s most successful in terms of reach and engagement.  This could be seen as twofold, as it benefits from being the first blog post in the new layout style as well as its promotion on the Brooklyn Nine-Nine subreddit.  On top of this, the new format is easier to digest and piques the interest of a non-educated viewer far more easily than a dot point list.

During my conversations with Max concerning the digital artefact, I came to the conclusion that the shows he had reviewed so far had been chosen as they were shows that Max had already watched seasons of (Doctor Who, BoJack Horseman) or already enjoyed watching.  Continuing down this route could be beneficial in that it appeals more strongly to those with similar tastes in content to Max, turning his blog into a trustworthy reviewing platform.  However, it could also isolate those who have different viewing habits, locking him out of reaching a larger audience base.  Personally, I believe it would be beneficial for him to review shows that fall outside of his normal viewing habits of adult animation, supernatural drama and comedy.

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A poll run by Should You Binge This on Twitter – unfortunately, the small sample size makes it difficult to determine whether this is an accurate representation of Max’s audience.

Feedback

Taking into consideration the possible future direction of Should You Binge This, I believe that utilising websites such as Buzzfeed Community to promote the blog’s content should definitely be continued.  Buzzfeed articles and social media activity on Twitter and Reddit have proven successful in increasing traffic and engagement.  In particular, engaging with Reddit threads should be encouraged to promote content, and could also be used to gather suggestions for new shows to review.

Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 3.51.58 am.png
The Buzzfeed Community article posted by Max.

I would recommend for Max to collect suggestions and research the sorts of shows others are interested in reading reviews about.  In doing this, the artefact may be successful in reaching a larger audience.  For example, reviewing popular reality shows such as Queer Eye (for example) could broaden the reach of the blog – whether or not the shows are ultimately determined to be ‘binge-worthy’.


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