Following The Audience

One of the biggest things one can learn in the business world is how to adapt to changing environments.

English: American family watching TV (cropped)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suspect that a lot of executives believed they were good at it until they faced the challenges of the last decade.  It’s relatively easy when you’re in start-up mode to pivot the business from one model to the next.  Once you’re a mid-size enterprise or a public company (much harder since every move is public and scrutinized by analysts and shareholders).

The better media companies can and have done this.  For example, most of the traditional television networks have accepted that their role has changed.  They once were programmers who decided what the audience would watch based on time of day.  Audience flow created by content choreography was a big deal.  Today they are curators.  They have learned to buy or create programs and to present them in a channel-agnostic fashion.  Why?  To survive.  37 percent of U.S. consumers now own a tablet, a smartphone and a laptop, which is a whopping 42 percent increase year-over-year. Women comprised 35 percent of this group two years ago; now they account for 45 percent of the group.  Failing to address this change in consumer habits could have been fatal.

We live in an A.D.D. world.  Everyone’s brain is focusing on something for a few seconds and then it’s on to the next bit of information or device.  86 percent of U.S. consumers multitask while watching TV, yet only 22 percent of these activities relate to the program being watched.  If you’re a marketer, how can you become part of the conversation that’s occurring around the program, even if it’s only a quarter of the audience? If you’re the content provider, how do you grow the 22 percent? Binge viewing is another concept pretty much unheard of until recently.  What has this done to overnight or even weekly ratings and do they tell even half of the true audience story?

The media companies have learned to survive on smaller segments aggregated into massive audiences.  Those audiences are spread out over time and across multiple platforms.  I’d say it’s been a pretty nice demonstration of how to change to follow your audience’s tastes, which is something at which they’ve always been good.  What are your thoughts?

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