At the end of a long day of work or learning, many of us turn to TV or our favourite streaming services to relax and unwind. But what we’re watching doesn’t only have the power to entertain and help us detach from the day. It also has the potential to inform and educate – albeit in an entertaining and easy-to-watch way.
With the proliferation of platforms and content available, this offers an opportunity to use infotainment as a tool in driving critical skills development.
Infotainment is by no means a new concept: its origins go back to the 1980s, and rapid technological advancements that have changed the way people consume media and content between then and now have meant that it has become ever more prevalent. Although it was initially a somewhat derogatory term used by news organisations for soft news focusing on human interest, infotainment has since become a viable and powerful way to pass on educational and useful content around a variety of themes.
As the way we live and work evolves through continuous technological innovation, there are significant opportunities available to package educational content in new, entertaining and creative ways that allow for greater access to these resources. This can then enable vital skills development, particularly in fields where there is a shortage of skills.
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – for example, is an area where there is currently a massive skills shortage, and a growing need for these disciplines in the workplaces of the future. Already it is estimated that 80% of jobs require STEM-related skills as these fields help develop problem solving and critical thinking abilities. As it stands, however, South Africa does not have the skills to match these demands. Only about 20% of students in STEM-related courses currently graduate from university.
This indicates a dire need for skills development in STEM – and infotainment can play an important role. There are widespread opportunities to package content in interesting and innovative ways to appeal to young South Africans and encourage them to study these fields further.
Using content creatively to drive skills development
Using creative content has the potential to help turn the tide, and drive much-needed skills development in STEM disciplines. Discovery Education STEM Connect is exploring how to package this type of content and resources to ignite interest, and is enjoying great success so far.
Discovery also recently donated STEM content to local community channels in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to take learning beyond the classroom and into the real world to encourage the next generation of leaders through content that informs, inspires and entertains. The content donated was predicted to reach a combined 3 million accumulative viewers per month.
These are just two examples, but they illustrate exactly how valuable a role infotainment can play in passing on essential skills.
There are also opportunities to enable broader skills development through infotainment by reaching children at a young age, and teaching them a love for stories, reading and language. This is why Discovery RISE, in partnership with Save the Children South Africa, recently launched the #SavewithstoriesSA campaign.
#SavewithstoriesSA aims to encourage reading among children through the sharing of video clips of well-known personalities reading children’s books out loud. The initiative aims to foster a love of reading and stories by featuring books that are available in multiple South African languages, as well as that are authored by South Africans. The stories were aired on Discovery Family and Real Time, and the full library of stories was also made available on Save the Children SA’s Instagram page.
Inculcating a deep and ongoing love of learning is important in driving skills development, and infotainment has the power to help foster this interest and passion for learning. Finding relevant and meaningful ways to use infotainment as a tool to facilitate skills development is going to become increasingly important – but those who manage to get it right will see the impact it can make.
Henry Windridge is head of brand for the Middle East & Africa at Discovery. He is an experienced marketing and content director, working across the Middle East and Africa for Discovery, the world’s biggest real-life entertainment company. Previously based in London, heading up B2C and B2B marketing for media brands at Global, Hearst and ITV.
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