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The following is an excerpt from Building Audience: Courting & Keeping Customers in a Media & Entertainment Industry Awash in Data, a whitepaper I co-wrote with world-renowned media researcher Bill Harvey.

Media and entertainment (M&E) companies are awash in customer data. Yet companies are struggling to wade through all that data to better understand customers on a personal level and deliver what they want. In fact, only 7% of all data collected is tagged, and a mere 1% is analyzed.

Customer patterns of behavior change from day to day and the number of platforms and technologies they use are constantly in flux. Today's M&E companies risk becoming trapped in a "catch-up" cycle, like Sisyphus forced to repeatedly roll an immense boulder uphill, only to watch it roll back down again and again.

The promise of big data: provide answers to critical business questions within hours, and sometimes minutes. However, those answers are often incomplete, if not outright wrong.

Big data is often siloed into separate streams of information, so it lacks the necessary structure and context to provide a full picture. Consider the set top box data collected by many cable companies. This data is typically controlled by one unit within the company, and it's often difficult for marketing professionals to use that data to gain a better understanding of the viewing preferences of individual homes. As a result, the same multiple-system operator (MSO) goes outside their own company to buy other set top box data. In other instances, Video on Demand (VOD) data and set top box data are usually never combined within an MSO. Siloed data, it's clear, tends to not be very useful.

tweet-this_0Big data often lacks the necessary structure and context to provide a full picture. (CLICK TO TWEET)

While social media data has become a new kind of toy for many marketers, it doesn't necessarily lead to insight. Think for a moment about a popular science fiction show. You might get some positive social media centered on the show, but that's a response from a small but active and "loud" group. Marketers don't hear from lurkers - most other people who are watching but never engage in social media while watching.

Another challenge is harmonizing different kinds of data coming from multiple and varying sources. For example: Cookie data, the mainstay of digital content, and social media data both offer information about an individual person. But set top box and offline purchase data offer information at the household level. Connecting these two streams of data continues to challenge M&E marketers, and while solutions are available, awareness of their availability is still low.

Big data usually does a good job of revealing the "what", "where" and "when" of customer behavior, but not effectively "who" they are nor "why" they behave the way they do.

tweet-this_0Big data doesn't do a good job of revealing the "who" and the "why" of customer behavior. (CLICK TO TWEET)

So, where are most market research departments in M&E companies? Not where they should be. Many of the vendors that serve these departments are not even thinking of, or planning for, how to effectively use big data in today's and tomorrow's M&E world.

Only the big research vendors such as Nielsen, comScore and others are bringing in big data but even they cannot innovate and evolve fast enough, in large part because they serve too many masters.

Many market research professionals may not have the skill sets to understand big data. Consequently, they often cling to outdated methods and tools. TV networks and other program producers have curtailed early testing of program concepts. Instead, they've settled into testing programs with pilot shows after the pilot is made. There was actually more rigorous end-to-end program testing half a century ago, compared with today. Today's approach to testing is deployed too late in the process to be truly cost-effective for the studios, networks and independent producers.

It's also frustrating for creative people whose ideas never see the light of day. Whereas concept testing often inspired creativity in the last century, today's approach to program research can stifle it.

Another challenge: traditional "custom research" processes in today's M&E industry are often too slow to provide any useful and actionable information in today's fast-paced market. They're also incomplete; they can tell M&E professionals who their customers are and why they behave the way they do, but they can't tell them with big data accuracy what they do, and where and when they do it.

In short, traditional market research methods simply can't keep up or tell the entire story of today's new, highly connected M&E customer. So, all this leaves us with an important question: How can marketers more quickly generate authentic customer intelligence that can lead to meaningful actions and real results?

The M&E companies that successfully engage customers will be those that have the agility, flexibility and insight to turn on a dime to better serve their customers. These attributes will enable M&E companies to deliver personalized and contextual content that they can monetize. Winning companies will innovate and collaborate to deliver compelling customer experiences with the right content - delivered through the right media, at the right time, on the right platform, and at the right price.

Tweet this! Today's media & entertainment world is not for the timid. Learn the strategy on how to survive: (CLICK TO TWEET)

How media companies monetize insight and drive revenue with research

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