I recently interviewed my pregnant wife Laura about her use of online discussion forums in light of her approach into motherhood. What we didn’t delve into was the fact that her hours spent on Urban Baby are often complemented with reality TV programming about pregnancy and newborns, most notably TLC’s A Baby Story and Bringing Home Baby. But these are not appointment viewings; Laura has programmed our TiVo to record every episode of these two shows, and others. I’d estimate our TiVo accumulates three to six newborn shows a day, and, yes, we watch or fast-forward through each and every one.
But reality and time-shifted baby programming doesn’t end with discussion boards and TiVo. On Friday she discovered Pregtastic, the podcast series by and for pregnant women. Being that podcasting is still out of reach of most non-geeks, Laura made me subscribe and download all the episodes to her iPod. Already, she’s tackled episodes one through ten, and there are only five more to go until she’s current with the latest installment. Tonight, we discovered five more pregnancy and newborn podcasts, and there now are about 10 more hours of pregnancy programming on her iPod. They’ll be consumed in less than 48 days, I bet.
What’s fascinating to me is that media technologies are enabling time-shifted consumption of extreme-niche reality programming. Not reality programming in the spirit of cheesy game shows like Fear Factor and Survivor, but reality programming in the spirit of real people sharing their experiences, devoid of artificiality, commercial agenda and formality. I’ve been witnessing engagement and trust with media programming that I’ve never seen before in my life. That’s a big deal, given that I work in marketing and media research. Is my wife falling into just another marketer-coveted affinity group, or is she at the forefront of a major shift in how consumers select, consume, engage in and trust super-niche programming and content?
Oh…she asked me tonight about starting her own pregnancy and newborn podcast, to fill a major void: She noted there are no newborn or pregnancy podcasts produced by professional women living in Brooklyn, NY, where we live. Because there is no existing programming that fits her profile with such extreme specificity, she considered creating it herself. That’s telling.
For the record, our consumption of media is only a part of our overall prep for parenthood. For example, we had two visits with friends who are parents of newborns (we live in Park Slope, after all!). We read a lot of books, and we begin newborn classes next week. We grill our parents about everything related to parenthood – constantly! And so on, and so on.
Still, there’s no doubt that message boards, podcasts, TiVo and other forms of time-shifted reality programming are seriously educating us and impacting our expectations of parenthood. I’m quite clueless about this so-called “parenting” stage of life, but there’s one thing I can say: it’s created a context where my wife and I are extremely hungry and engaged for relevant information, experiences and reassurance. These new niche and conversational media are satisfying that hunger like nothing I’ve ever seen before.