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The media and entertainment industry continues to experience huge transformations in the age of the empowered audience. Audiences, equipped with social media and mobile technologies, have more choices than ever before. At the same time, companies are drowning in unprecedented amounts of audience data. To keep up with these changes in the media landscape, companies need to make sure that their approach to audience intelligence matches the expectation of their internal stakeholders and the speed of business.

Vision Critical NYC breakfast event for media companies

On March 19, speakers at a Vision Critical breakfast event in New York City shared fresh insight on how modern media companies are engaging with their audience. The event included presentations by Scott Miller, CEO at Vision Critical, Bill Harvey, executive chairman at Bill Harvey Consulting and Bruce Friend, president of global media and entertainment at Vision Critical. I led a panel discussion with Lindsey Henderson, senior manager of programming research at Comedy Central, David Weissberg, research director at Ion Media, Kirk Olson, vice president of Trendsights at Horizon Media and Rebecca Rahmanian, research and insights strategist at Tumblr. We spoke on the various ways the industry is rebooting its approach to audience engagement.

The panel considered how insight professionals are addressing the downfalls of traditional approaches in audience engagement and the increasing demands of stakeholders and the businesses themselves. Here are three key lessons I took from the event:

  1.    Media companies want a more complete picture.

Many of the panel speakers agreed that the choice for the industry isn’t about big data or market research: companies need both in order to get a complete picture. Big data and analytics have a home within or alongside market research. According to the speakers, research and big data are able to inform each other, adding more context and value to the overall analysis of audience. This theme reflects what I see in the media industry, as it was something insight professionals were talking about at the recent ARF: ReThink Conference.

Vision Critical breakfast event for media companies

  1. The need to build a two-way relationship with the audience has never been more critical.

To compete in the dynamic media landscape, companies need context behind big data and social media—they need to understand the why of audience behavior. Getting that insight requires a conversation with the audience. It requires building a relationship with a highly engaged audience.

Speakers at the panel shared how closing the feedback loop helps them strengthen their relationship with their audience. For example, companies use content pieces such as newsletters and videos to share key insight with customers. Outside-of-the-box examples included the sharing of unique insights, in-office visits and branded “swag.” When companies close the loop, audience members know that they are heard and that their feedback is making a difference within the context of the insight community.

  1. More brands recognize the ROI of audience intelligence.

Selling audience intelligence to the C-suite is becoming easier. As Ion Media’s Weissberg said, insight communities have gained awareness at the exec table. It’s not unusual for media executives to cite findings from insight communities when making their decisions or communicating with partners and advertisers. For these business leaders, their insight communities of audience members are a valuable source of actionable insight. Speakers agreed that research professionals have a big opportunity to elevate the role of audience intelligence in the enterprise.


The media industry’s transformation to improved, holistic audience intelligence has just begun, and our recent event in New York reiterated the need for companies to get closer to their audience. Media brands need to rethink their approach to audience engagement now in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by social, mobile, big data and cloud technologies. The future of audience intelligence platforms is exciting and the media industry must be prepared to embrace these challenges and innovations.

To learn more about the different factors transforming the media industry, download Building Audience: Courting and Keeping Customers in a Media and Entertainment Industry Awash in Data, a white paper authored by media research expert Bill Harvey and Vision Critical’s Bruce Friend.

How media companies monetize insight and drive revenue with research

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