Audiences in Motion: Seizing Opportunity on the Digital Frontier

I attended a media breakfast and panel during Internet Week NY 2001 hosted by Knowledge Networks featuring a discussion on the integration of digital and classical media practices and strategies.  The program asks “what are the right opportunities for connection with key consumer targets – and how do we make the most of them?”


The program opened with a presentation from Knowledge Networks (KN) on the growth of mobile usage, especially in digital periodicals subscriptions, and social media usage patterns.   Part of the presentation was about KN’s “The Faces of Social Media” venture, demonstrating their ability to track mentions and sentiment in regard to media properties like “Dancing with the Stars”.  Another part focused on KN’s Dimestore platform, with its capabilities for digital media research and optimization.


The panel was moderated by Kendall Allen, Vice President of the Laredo Group and featured:


Brad Adgate, SVP & Director of Research, Horizon Media

David Coletti, VP of Digital Media Research & Analytics, ESPN

Stuart Schneiderman, Senior Director for Digital Research, MTV Networks

Daniel Slotwiner, Head of Measurement Solutions Group, Facebook


Allen opened the panel by asking how successful strategists and planners have been in embracing multiple platforms.  Slotwiner notes that an important change in how people are consuming media is that we are moving from anonymous usage to social sharing and gaming.  He believes that media planners need to pay attention to users’ desire to personalize and customize their online environment.


How do we move from having great data to really understanding the customers?  Coletti recognizes that there is a lot of data out there (perhaps too much, in his words), and culling through this mass of information to determine what is important is a challenge.  Schneiderman likens it from separating the wheat from the chaff. Bad data can come from poor surveying or poor analysis, and researchers often find themselves arguing with management about data that is telling but may not paint the organization in the best light.


There has been a focus on multi-screen consumption for special events (e.g., the World Cup), but Schneiderman believes that more effort has to go into planning for such behavior during everyday programs.  Networks need to catch up to consumer demand and develop a capability to measure this usage.


Adgate explains that the one part of media that a brand cannot control is what users say about their product offerings on social media.  Unless they are content spending their time doing damage control, marketers must understand that media has become a collaborative effort, rather an a classical top-down model.  He shared that when he started at Horizon Media, there was no interactive department, but now it’s a major part of the organization.  Today, most brand groups have a digital specialist at the core of their business.  Every year, he sees this interactive planning evolving further.


People get caught up on what they can do, and they often forget to determine what they should do.  Slotwiner reminds publishers to remain loyal to their business objectives rather than basing their planning on what kinds of applications are available to them.


In regard to metrics, how can platforms shepherd publishers, Allen asks.  At ESPN, if you know “how many, how often, and how long”, Coletti notes, then you’re well on the way to understanding your audience.  Having good creative isn’t enough.  You need to know that you are effectively reaching your target audience.  Schneiderman believes that the simplest questions (Where? When? Is content paid or earned?) are often the hardest to answer; the process becomes more complex as new stakeholders enter the equation.


We tend to get ahead of ourselves in the digital space, because there is no currency like television ratings.  While we have some idea of reach and frequency, Coletti, we are still determining just how many people are exposed to digital properties and just how they are being exposed to it.  Coming up with a common currency for exposure is critical, according to Slotwiner.  However, there are also higher order questions that reflect, for example, how a digital platform contributes to the message.  He believes that we are still a ways away from developing a gross rating point (GRP) for online.  We’re in a period of trial and error for advertisers as they try to determine how reach and purchase decisions are related.


Audiences watching on-demand programming through an app are a different demographic from the viewers who watch the same programming on television, Adgate notes, so advertisers need to make different media plans for these channels.  For this reason, advertisers may turn to ad networks that concern Schneiderman.  He is worried that the commoditization of ads is “taking a shortcut”, and that the audience-buying route may harm brands by clouding their message.  Allen recognizes that you don’t always know what you’re getting when you buy advertising through a demand-side platform.  Slotwiner thinks that both network ad buys and demand-side buys have a place, though different decisions need to be made for branded and direct-response advertisement.


Looking ahead, what do we need to reach a perfect marriage of content, data, measurement, etc?  It requires an investment and commitment by the industry, according to Coletti.  Publishers have to determine what unique elements on which they need to focus their attention, and the industry must collaborate on the universal elements that all publishers require.

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