The Media Insights and Engagement Conference is an annual event that brings together researchers, content creators and technologists to explore the current media and film industry landscape. This year’s conference took place in Los Angeles, California, and featured presentations from CBS, Facebook, YouTube, Comcast, BuzzFeed and more.
With streaming content and binge-watching as the norm, media and entertainment moves faster than most industries and the business needs to react quicker than ever. One key theme from Media Insights 2019 was the enduring importance of doing real research to truly understand the audience, beyond just the data.
From this event, a few trends stuck with us...
Content remains king
In past conferences, I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about ad sales. Not this year though. It seems like most companies are realizing that creating the best content possible is key to increasing subscribers and attracting ad dollars. Many speakers talked about using insights to create binge-worthy content, whether that’s an unscripted reality TV series or a livestream show.
To improve their content, many companies are investing in new research technologies and methodologies to reach new audiences. Media companies need to talk directly to all different types of viewers, rather than engaging just the account holders. You can just imagine how many viewers are behind one Netflix, Starz or Crave account—which is often not just the family members, but friends, colleagues, and the list goes on.
Media companies need to talk directly to all different types of viewers, rather than engaging just the account holders.
While sending a survey to an email database can reach people who pay for subscriptions, this approach is no longer enough since companies need to appeal to the people who actually consume the content. Given that many people share their account details, talking to just the account holders leaves a big blindspot when creating content. This creates an appetite to engage with fans, beyond the emails in a database, and to reach out to individuals through social media and messaging apps—channels where people naturally have conversations about the content they are consuming.
The most widely attended session of the event was actually not run by a researcher, but rather a content creator: Kenya Barris, the writer and producer of critically acclaimed Blackish. Media experts asked many questions to learn more about how a showrunner would actually take insights and empower their creativity in the writers room. I expect this will become a more common audience for the data teams to interface with, as content continues to become the main driver for engagement across the board.
The social media factor
Advancements in social media continue to shape media distribution and consumption, reiterated many speakers. One roundtable was exclusively focused on the this question: if content is king, what is the queen? Distribution or marketing?
In their session, Charlene Richey and Vicki Molina-Estolano of Ipsos and Facebook, respectively, revealed that one in three Facebook Stories get a direct message reply. That said, to get more value of out Stories, advertisers need to create useful content that can be easily and quickly consumed. Having multiple scenes and using effective sound or music also help make your ad content more successful, according to the speakers.
Expect more premium and long-form content to come to social media.
BuzzFeed’s Edwin Wong spoke about creating intimacy from “mundane” conversations that happen on social media. One behavior that has become dominant is the practice of @ mentioning a friend in the comments. Wong said this is a simple but powerful behavior that reveals people’s connections and what type of content resonates best with the audience. BuzzFeed has examined this behavior to get better insights and improve the company’s social media advertising.
Also, we can expect more premium and long-form content to come to social media. Some experts on stage revealed that they are actively considering Reddit and Facebook as distribution channels. It is interesting to see that these channels, which were used exclusively for brands to do marketing within previously, now become distribution centers in their own right. It’s almost as if marketing tests the audiences and distribution follows.
The need to get and use insights faster is having a big impact on the day to day of media researchers, who now have to keep up with analytics teams to remain relevant. Many speakers spoke about the death of massive, long studies in favor of more agile research practices.
The right technology can help accelerate the insight-gathering process by enabling market research teams to do quick and more frequent activities.
Some companies are accelerating their processes by bringing experts from other industries. Researchers in CPG, in particular, is an attractive pool, since this is an industry that has defined and efficient processes. Senior researchers who recently joined media companies like BET and ESPN came from CPG heavyweights such as Procter & Gamble.
From my perspective, the right technology can help accelerate the insight-gathering process by enabling market research teams to do quick and more frequent activities. Rather than doing a 20-minute survey once a month, for instance, a more agile approach is to send short chat surveys once a week. The approach of communicating in bursts is much easier for research participants to respond with their true opinions, rather than going into “research mode” and straight-lining through a longer study. The leave-return-leave-return feeling of participating in a Facebook Messenger conversation also mimics how people are communicating in their daily lives.
Your channel of distribution is another consideration. It may take a few days for respondents to respond to a survey sent via email, but it will only take hours or even minutes for them to respond to an SMS or a Messenger chat. Check out our case study with the Vancouver Canucks for an example: https://www.rivaltech.com/canucks
It’s all about actionable insights
To really deliver value, research teams need to provide insights that actually influence decision-making. It’s no longer enough to send mega, 20-page reports to stakeholders. Often researchers are pitching to showrunners, film talent and general managers of major networks—busy people who don’t have a lot of time to sift through a pile of data. Many research teams are condensing their reports into short, highly engaging slides or mobile-friendly reports that provide snackable but very useful insights.
Videos and images are important to humanizing the audience and influencing stakeholders to take action.
Some innovative teams are taking their approach even further, using mini-documentaries to tell a better story to their stakeholders. Numerous speakers agreed that videos and images are important to humanizing the audience and influencing stakeholders to take action. Many companies are considering market research technology solutions that make it seamless and easy to collect selfie videos and images directly from respondents to enrich their data.
The Media Insights conference is a reminder that while expectations for research teams have changed, they continue to play a crucial role in the companies that they serve. As audience fragmentation continues to accelerate and media companies look to leverage new technologies to monetize their audience, having a deep understanding of people’s attitudes, opinions and preferences will only grow in importance in this highly competitive industry.
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