Edutainment & You: How to Produce Great Educational Content.
Edutainment has been around for decades—the first documented use of the education+entertainment portmanteau was in the 1950s. There’s no doubt you’ve had your fair share of exposure to it as well, whether that be after-school TV sessions with Elmo on “Sesame Street,” exploring your creative side and cultivating “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, or cooking up some special “30-Minute Meals” with Rachael Ray.
Educational entertainment is so much more than documentaries and episodes of “How It’s Made” (which, to be honest, can be much more educational than entertaining).
So, what exactly makes edutainment content successful?
It connects with the audience.
Looking into the camera lens and addressing the audience directly builds a personal bond with the audience. This personality-driven approach creates familiarity, comfort and trust.
Just as you’d take your friend's recommendation over the advice from a stranger, viewers turn to credible people, organizations, and channels online when they’re in need of a little help—whether that be with installing a new faucet, signing up to be an organ donor, or recruiting prospective employees to join their team. The format works because, over time, the content creators have built their reputation for being knowledgeable and transparent. They’ve laid a foundation for trust with their audience.
It’s packed with useful information, but not overwhelming.
Of course, education is the goal, but if viewers feel like they can’t keep up or the content is going over their heads, they won’t stay engaged.
Additionally, in recent years we’ve seen a general decline in audience’s attention spans. Now, even 5-minute YouTube videos can be too tall of a task, and viewers may opt for a 15- to 60-second TikTok instead.
The key is balancing the information, audience attention span, and entertainment value so the piece is not weighted too heavily in one direction.
Entertainment value is the differentiating factor here. You need to know how to keep your audience engaged. After all, you won’t reap the rewards of edutainment content if no one’s paying attention to what you have to say. This means changing your focus a bit, perhaps moving away from what you want your audience to hear about your organization and shifting to what they want to learn. Keep your audience in mind and look at the video from their perspective—what would keep them watching?
It’s easy to access.
The rise of YouTube in the 2000s allowed nearly anyone to self-publish their own how-to tutorials and other edutainment content online, giving them the ability to share their expertise and knowledge with the world. Today, YouTube has 2 billion monthly users. But trends move quickly with video content, and apps such as TikTok are climbing to more than 600 million monthly users.
You have to keep up to date on trends to ensure your videos end up in front of your target audience. It’s a lot harder to make people go out of their way to find and watch your content, so making it easy to access is key.
Edutainment can be difficult to produce as an organization. Pulling back the curtain and sharing your knowledge can seem counterintuitive to your goals, and sharing a personality can feel vulnerable, but the rewards far outweigh the risks. Becoming a trusted source for information is invaluable because your audience will learn to seek you out when they need your expertise.
We expect the technical aspects of edutainment and online video to continue to evolve over the years, but the format and style aren’t going anywhere. Your future self will thank you if you start creating this content and building that foundation of trust and credibility with your audience now.
Rachel, Bob, and Elmo would be proud.