Exploring engagement in vlogs through content, context and presence
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In this thesis, we present a qualitative exploration of how video bloggers (vloggers) achieve audience engagement in their vlogging. Engagement is a crucial factor for developing relationships between content providers and consumers, and for the quality of consumers’ experience with media products such as online videos. Previous research in marketing and media studies suggests that achieving engagement with their audience is significant for the success of vloggers’ careers, such as obtaining large fan bases on YouTube and other social media sites. However, how vloggers achieve engagement is rarely explored, and their audience engagement has rarely been clearly defined. We view vlog audience engagement as having two facets: consumer engagement and media engagement. This thesis applies theories of both customer and media engagement to the exploration of vlog consumption. By investigating three factors of vlogs — content, context, and presence — we address the question of how vloggers achieve audience engagement. We argue these three elements to be key to constructing audience engagement. We employ a case study research with a qualitative content analysis method applied to video samples from four well-known YouTube vloggers. Our results suggest that vlog audience engagement can be addressed through both customer and media engagement theories, which can help to account for vlogger-audience relationships beyond video consumption and audience experience during video viewing. To obtain consumer engagement, vloggers can use interaction, self-presentation, information management, and rewards in their vlog content. Vloggers’ execution of these engagement factors in their content can also be conditioned by the vlogging context, namely the context of vlogger, audience, physical environment, social environment, and medium. Furthermore, sensory and social elements may evoke aspects of presence to contribute to media engagement. Sensory elements are colour, camera usage, image quality, and audio quality; social elements are the vlogger’s eye contact, facial expressions, conversations and gestures. By applying both customer and media engagement theories to explore vlog audience engagement, this thesis bridges gaps regarding the application of engagement theories explicitly to vlogging. It indicates that vlogs are a useful medium to encourage audience engagement both inside and beyond vlog consumption. Our results suggest that customer engagement factors can be added to vlog content to encourage vlogger-audience connections beyond video consumption. We also indicate that context can influence the production of related customer engagement factors in vlog content. Using presence determinants in video production may affect vlog viewers’ direct consumption experience for media engagement. This thesis provides a way to substantially understand vlog audience engagement by considering both viewers’ video consumption experiences and the building of vlogger-audience relationships. The thesis also offers new directions for researchers to explore audience experience with vloggers from an engagement perspective through vlog content, context, and presence. Furthermore, our results could also be developed into practical guides in the future for new or existing vloggers to build and maintain connections with their audience and improve the latter’s video consumption experience.
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