How International Are We?

Isn’t it time that we made geo-blocking a thing of the past? How much more global can we get before advertisers and brands begin to ignore country boundaries? Any users of iTunes would certainly share this frustration as our libraries in Australia are still lacking the enormous depth of their US counterparts, but now these frustrations have also reached audiences of the biggest youth-targeted news platforms . . . BuzzFeed.

RIo Olympics

The Olympics is notoriously litigious with its distribution of rights. Yet, this year has seen the traditional brand undergo a strong push for the digital space and the millions and millions of young audience members many brands want to begin talking to. They officially partnered with Snapchat to cover the hours of Olympic coverage in short, easy-to-access snippets. And they have formed a partnership with BuzzFeed working with athletes and their famed content creators to begin relationship building with the next generation of athletes and audience members . . .

Or have they?

I can’t actually tell you what they have done in this partnership. The video descriptions and stills look exciting. Clickable even. And a couple of them come up in the subscriber section of my YouTube app every day. But I can’t watch them . . . because the rights for this partnership were only available to audiences in the US and every time I click on one of the videos I get the message every online users despises ‘This content is not available in your region’.

Solidly digital brands, such as BuzzFeed, might be based in the US but their audiences aren’t defined by geographical boundaries. Their audiences are defined by interests and the far-reaching nature of the internet means that people from all over the world can come together to consume content from anywhere which meets their interests . . . until brands get in the way.

This partnership is disappointing on both sides of the equation. BuzzFeed have created great content, but many of their viewers get let down when trying to engage with it and have a bad experience with the brand. The Olympics miss out on engaging with an entire young international audience through a platform which regularly reaches one or two million viewers with each video. Did anybody win in this situation? BuzzFeed’s international viewers now have a daily reminder of bad experiences with the brand for two weeks. The Olympics were holding out for some more money so BuzzFeed could broadcast internationally and now are missing the opportunity to engage with a broader potential fan base. That sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.

So do we really need geo-blocking anymore? When it comes to digital content, should we still be defining broadcast based on geographical location? It’s time for brands to start having these conversations because digital audiences are getting more and more fickle and will move to products which don’t geo-discriminate!