The problem with digital is that it can take a while to amass a large audience, while one airing of a TV episode can reach millions at once. If a clip goes viral, it can far exceed the television broadcast viewership. But for the majority of clips, it still takes a while before that one segment is seen by millions of people despite getting millions of views, and then all those segments have to be compounded together to match the length of a show.
To get the digital audience to migrate to TV, more shows are embracing the structures of online content. Digital advertising agency Firstborn senior strategist Scott Fogel explained that before, most people relied on late-night shows to tell them the day's news, tell them about the new movies coming out that weekend and hear music from the latest album releases.
"When you're in this 24/7 media environment, there's no need to recap today's news and culture," Fogel said. "We aren't waiting until the end of the day to recap things we've read all day. We want the next thing. What we haven't seen is the people behind these things presented in a new and interesting way."
As a result, he's noticed that the new late-night hosts are shifting their content from being timely to be more evergreen. Not only does it fit what today's consumer wants, it also is better adapted for digital platforms that allow people to watch when they are free to watch.
So it means is that skits and segments are more important than sit-down interviews.
"There is a formula and an art and science taking shape to make it easier for people to consume content," Fullscreen's Holdridge said. "We're learning to know what to expect and how to appeal to the masses. A lot of these late-night shows are falling in-suit with those formats and formulas, which is based from what the popular vloggers and YouTubers are doing."
Holdridge pointed out that Kimmel's "I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy" or "Celebs Read Mean Tweets" is similar in structure to YouTube "react" videos where people try to capture another's emotions on camera. Fallon's lip sync battles come at a time when apps like Dubsmash, which allow millennials to mouth along with the words of their favorite songs, are extremely popular. Vloggers were lip syncing to millions of views way before Fallon's battles started.
Channel+ also advises more social media hashtags to get the conversation going online even ahead of the episode. Holdridge said shows like @Midnight have been successful in getting its #Hashtagwars to trend on Twitter, a crowdsourced call-out for clever tweets around a hashtag topic like #MakeTVShowsPunk or #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly. Fallon employs the same technique and features tweets around a predetermined hashtag on his shows.
And, late shows are embracing more digital media influencers. Colbert has interviewed YouTube celebrities like PewDiePie and is bringing tech influencers like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on set. Holdridge said part of the strategy includes non-TV segments like green room digital interviews conducted by Vine or Instagram celebrities.