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Reflections on The Media Insights State of the Union

Posted by on 27 March 2018
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In the Industry State of the Union session at the 2018 Media Insights and Engagement Conference, panelists were asked to share with the audience one takeaway from the current circumstances of the industry. Here are summaries of the takeaways (apologies in advance for any inaccuracies in the verbatim transcriptions from my notes), along with some commentary.

Julya Fridman (Charter): Today’s data and tools allow much improved insights over the past. The digital enabling of new research tools, methods, and collaboration tools are all ways which contribute to data collection and insight generation. And while Big Data are capable of generating unique insights, several mentions were made at the conference of the need to harness these data correctly – that data should be the horses pulling the insight cart, not vice versa.

Dan Robbins (Roku): Invite people outside your team’s area of expertise to talk about their work and experiences, to fill in knowledge gaps and expand competence. At the conference, this was best demonstrated by the invited keynote speakers such as Soon Yu, who had no media mentions in his presentation. Also by breakout presentation sessions by representatives of non-video media such as Conde Nast and Columbia Records.

Kelly Abcarian (Nielsen): Lean into AI skill sets; use chat bots internally. Lean into youth and millennials. Obviously at our conferences, youth and millennials have been popular topics, and will be for some time to come as they are our new audiences (an interesting tidbit was that the oldest millennials are now turning 40!). I didn’t hear too much about internal use of AI, although it did come up during one presentation that discussed use of AI for interpreting open-ended responses.

Tom Ziangas (AMC): Embed with stakeholders, Invest in talent, and Explore ways to do things differently. As discussed often in media conferences, there is always a need to get a seat at the proverbial table, and the best way to do that is to get in the trenches with your internal clients. Investing in talent is always a priority, although I’d have to say it seemed junior-level researchers were in short supply at the conference this year. And certainly, the conference is an excellent way to explore new methods and ideas from around our media industry.

Artie Bulgrin (MediaScience): Be a perpetual student of the business; embrace change; be a strategic partner and outspoken. To know the business would seem something that should go without saying; but with many research start-ups and data-centric companies looking for work within the media space, it’s not always the case. At the recent CIMM Summit, “know my business and my business issues” was a key comment from a leadership panel. As far as embracing change, while many of the faces at the conference remain the same each year (if a little older), all successful leaders in media research have had to navigate great change in technology, business models, and research methods.

David Poltrack (CBS): Take risks and speak up. To make your mark in industry, you need to have made a leap of faith – and been successful. This was particularly demonstrated by our keynotes Evan Shapiro and Dana Brunetti, both of whom have led large bets on creative content and have won more than they lost. While we researchers may not get the accolades from a big box office or Oscar nominations, there are still ways we can make huge enhancements to our firms’ (or clients’ firms) value by innovation.

Duane Varan (MediaScience): We all need to collaborate and talk more, even if we are competitors. Certainly this spirit is at the heart of conferences such as Media Insights and Engagement, and a good note to close on. Competitive considerations and proprietary data aside, I believe the television research industry has an enviable record of collaboration. Perhaps, however, we could extend this collaboration to the newer players in our space – data scientists, streaming-first companies, and so forth – who currently have little to no representation in this or other “traditional” TV conferences.

About the Author: David is an award-winning media research expert, providing clients with insights into media adoption and use for over 23 years. He is currently principal of TiceVision LLC, a media consultancy. He can be reached at

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