We hear the word “bespoke” used in a variety of contexts these days, from audience segments and system integrations, to all manner of IT products. In fact, one could call it the new “disrupt” -- a word such cachet that everyone claims it applies to them.
Bespoke originally referred to custom-made clothing (emphasis on custom). Therefore, bespoke anything, by definition, isn’t prepackaged; whatever it is, it has been designed from the bottom up to meet a subject’s very specific needs.
So is there such a thing as bespoke analytics for TV networks? And if so, do analytics need to be bespoke?
Let’s start with the second question. Back in the 1970’s, media companies were more similar than they were different. There were a handful of TV channels and advertisers bought audiences based on the gross rating point (GRPs). But in the past ten years, digital obliterated that model.
TV Everywhere, i.e. the ability to consume TV content from any device at any time, has drastically changed consumer behavior. Gone are the days when most of America tuned in at the same time to watch “Seinfeld.” Today, audiences tune in whenever they feel like watching a show, making it difficult for networks and advertisers to identify the day-parts that are over-indexed for their prospects. On top of that, TV networks have faced a never-ending crop of competition for original content, from AMC and HBO, to Amazon, Netflix and Hulu.
This has been a dramatic change for TV networks, which traditionally were the bastion of all things branding. Prior to the digital revolution, TV strategy was all about keeping an eye on viewership and valuable demographics, staking out a position in the marketplace, and doing whatever it took to pry viewership away from the competition.
But that’s all changed completely. TV is now largely niche focused (even the big media companies occupy lots of different niches). Their goals are very different from what they once were, and more significantly, they’re very different from their competitors. As a result, TV marketers need to act more like their advertiser clients, and develop super-sharp direct response marketing skills. Who are their viewers? How are they influenced? How can they be reached and kept engaged? And how can they help advertisers identify and reach their ideal audiences?
This new reality changes the nature of the dialog, and data is at the center of the conversation. Off-the-shelf analytics packages no longer suffice. Media companies want an analytics framework that reflects the drivers of their niche markets and unique goals. Put another way, they want bespoke analytics.
What Do Analytics Really Need to Answer
The purpose of analytics is to help identify the drivers that will move a business forward. At a high level, companies need to think about the kinds of content and customer experiences that gain eyeballs. It takes a lot of thought and a myriad of iterations for a media company to find its voice and place in the viewer’s mind.
And that’s just the beginning. Media companies need to constantly decipher what matters to them, what they can control, and how they can affect change. These are the critical datasets for their businesses. And they are not the same across all companies. For instance, I work with some companies where the top goal is distributing content as far and wide as possible, and others for which the top goal is keeping users engaged for as long as possible in a single session. As a result, each company requires significantly different datasets and analytics.
That’s why off-the-shelf analytics won’t cut it for today’s media companies. These standardized KPIs will tell you what everyone else in the industry is doing, but how useful is that to meeting your business goals? Analytics may provide you with 100 data points that are available, but maybe only 20 are important. Worse, there may be 15 data points that are truly valuable to your business, but are simply not available in pre-packaged analytics packages.
For the record, I don’t mean to sound as if these packages are worthless -- they’re not. In fact, we use several of them with many clients and we get a lot of value out of them. But I understand that today’s fragmented media landscape has meant the media companies are forging their own path for mindshare, and that means they need a robust set of data and analytics that are unique to their own business. Bespoke analytics are as customized as a tailor-made suit, based on what the business needs to know.