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Can Daytime Soap Operas Thrive in a Digital Age?

Over the past decade and some change daytime soap opera fans have watched several of our beloved old standards go off to the Big Soap Opera Museum in the Sky. From the losses of Another World to Guiding Light and As The World Turns, to the short-lived-but-popular Sunset BeachPort Charles and Passions, the late 90's and the first decade of the 00's was a rough time for the genre and those who love it. The question is, can the six remaining soaps figure out a way to thrive in a digital age?


Sam Ford, director of digital strategy for Peppercom Strategic Communications, strives to help answer that question in the essay compilation The Survival of Soap Opera.  Ford co-edited the tome with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington. To get a glimpse of the MIT research affiliate's knowledge of what today's soaps are facing, check out his blog for Fast Company. Here's a snippet:

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Now, as we enter a "digital era," soap operas are struggling in the ratings. Procter & Gamble, the last actual "soap company" still making soap operas, ended their soaps, thus canceling the run of As the World Turns (the most popular soap opera in history) and Guiding Light (which had been on the air since its radio days in 1937). For most of their television runs, soaps have slowly seen their ratings dwindle. Yet, the six shows on the air still draw in millions of viewers a week for five weekly episodes with no off-season. That's 260 episodes or so a year, with the "youngest" soap on the air (CBS's The Bold and the Beautiful) being almost 25 years old and broadcasting more than 6,000 episodes to date.

The survival of soaps has been a driving topic of conversation on the Daytime Confidential blog since my business partner Luke Kerr first started the site, but now it's your turn. You tell us in the comments. What can the soaps do to save themselves in a digital age?

Photo credit: ABC