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Mavericks of Media 2019: The Disruption Is Happening, Live With It!

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To paraphrase the title of the first session of the conference (“The Disruption Has Happened… Now What?”), the tone of the 2019 Mavericks of Media conference might best be described as the disruption is happening, live with it! (or, perhaps, how to live with it). It seems we in the media business have been living in disruption for most of the last decade, so that’s not new news. But how media research experts and methods are continually adapting to the evolving media marketplace is noteworthy.

Several sessions at the conference talked about how our “human capital” has had to evolve to deal with the changes in media research. Not just dealing with the changes in the media landscape with the mainstreaming of video and audio streaming, but also the advent of Big Data, data mining, and A.I.

Roles and responsibilities have shifted to make room for this new branch of research. Lead researchers have to add data management to their team’s portfolio, providing the interface between traditional sources (now updated with their own data streams), new sources (that spew a lot of data but not always to the quality we’ve grown used to), and data scientists.

While some companies may be entranced by Big Data and the data scientist, at least in the near future, media research is best served by making appropriate use of the new and the established – quant research, qual research, and data science – in serving the “art and science” that we like to call media research.

Other sessions dealt with some of the opportunities around changes in the media research toolbox. These included newer methods for pilot testing and program development, and making use of multiple data sources to develop viewing information across different platforms. New ad formats, like the “pause ads” developed by Hulu, can be gleaned from Big Data insights into viewing habits. And OTT services will play an increasingly important role as consumer use of OTT increases, and TV sets with built-in Roku or Amazon Fire operating systems become commonplace.

And there are always challenges. The issue of cross-platform measurement seems intractable – even if the technical capability is there, how will the different parties with interest in such data come together? There was talk about the priority of content measurement versus ad measurement. Can there be data standardization, or will everyone insist on formats to match their proprietary systems? What about walled gardens, without which there can be no truly universal measurement?

It would take a real maverick to deny the ever-louder drumbeat of change in our business. But as evidenced by this conference, industry associations, and other forums, the media research community has always relied on conversations and working together to move towards solutions that serve the marketplace.

About the Author: David Tice is an award-winning media research expert and author of “The Genius Box,” a new book about the evolution of the television-audience relationship. He is principal of TiceVision LLC, a media consultancy, and can be reached at david@ticevision.com.

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