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At an exclusive event in New York City last week, we invited leading media and entertainment brands to talk about the current state of their industry and share what they’re doing to create a more meaningful connection with their audience.

The topic was very timely given the transformation facing the industry today. As I shared in my presentation during the breakfast event, advancements in technology and changes in customer behavior are forcing brands to rethink how they monetize their audience. Consider these stats:

  • Among 18 to 34-year-old males, TV viewing for the first two nights of the 2015-2016 season has plummeted by 18 percent, according to Ad Age.
  • 63 percent of millennials use ad-blocking technology—and this was before the release of Apple’s iOS 9 platform, which makes it easier than ever for iPhone users to block ads.
  • In the last 5 years, there has been a 200 percent increase in numbers of scripted shows, but there has been a 400 percent increase in failure rates among these shows. (Source:

Suffice to say, technology has profoundly changed the way people access and consume media content. In addition to audience fragmentation, the industry is also grappling with the shifting expectation of empowered audience. Today, content is still king, but distribution, platform and user experience are playing a bigger and bigger role in ruling that kingdom.

In this changing landscape, media and entertainment companies need to be innovative in finding new sources of revenue streams from the content they work so hard to produce. So, the question that companies need to answer is this: how do we monetize our audience in a more relevant manner—in a way that doesn’t alienate them but actually builds a deeper, lasting relationship with them?

For answers, we invited the brightest thinkers from the industry’s most respected brands to share with us how they’re solving the industry’s monetization problem. The lively roundtable discussion included Mariel Estrada, VP of strategic insights at A+E Networks; Joe Blechman, senior research manager at AOL; Elizabeth Nann, executive director of global consumer insights at the Wall Street Journal; and Grady Edelstein, executive marketing director of Glamour.

Here are the top three takeaways from the session:

  1. Use audience intelligence to help advertisers.

Showing companies ROI for their advertising dollars is even more crucial than before. Nann said the Wall Street Journal uses audience intelligence to help advertisers track campaigns and prove to sponsors that their ads are working. Estrada adds that for new accounts, A+E Networks provide opinion and intent metrics as a post-sale support to help advertisers see the value of their investments. Similarly, AOL works with advertisers to determine proper KPIs and helps them measure those KPIs by measuring things like clicks, views and brand recall, according to Blechman. In these examples, companies engage with their insight communities for hard data on how advertising dollars are resulting to awareness and brand recall.

Media brands also need to think about innovative ways of providing additional value for advertisers. Glamour, for instance, provides product sample support, according to Edelstein. The company sends samples from brands to members of its insight community, helping advertisers get feedback and testimonials for their products.

  1. Look outside of ad sales.

Smart media companies are using audience intelligence outside of research and ad sales; they’re engaging with their audience to develop better branded content, increase subscriptions and make better business decisions.

The Wall Street Journal, for instance, is prioritizing customer-centricity, using qualitative and quantitative research to maximize the potential of new products and reduce risks of launch failures.

Audience engagement can also help to optimize pricing. Blechman said AOL used its insight community to determine test pricing for some of its product—helping drive revenue by making sure that the price makes sense from an analytical or mathematical perspective.

  1. Get ahead of trends.

One unexpected benefit of engaging with your audience is that it helps you get ahead of your competition in various ways. For example, A+E uses its insight community to uncover insight about new digital platforms, which is critical given the various technological shifts facing the media industry.

By enabling a culture of audience-centricity, companies can encourage internal collaboration. This step is crucial in fostering innovation in the company. In the Wall Street Journal, for instance, insight from its community helps enable a culture of collaboration between the CMO as well as the strategy and digital groups.

Overall, the speakers agreed that integrated audience intelligence is gaining more traction in today’s media landscape. The C-suite—including, in many cases, the CEO—is becoming aware of the importance of insight communities and how an audience intelligence platform can help them determine the best way to monetize their content and distribution channels.

The 10 Smartest Brands: How They Use Customer Intelligence

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