Apr 8, 2021

The New Streaming Culture. A Look at the New ViacomCBS Streaming Study.

As we begin to turn our attention to the post pandemic, pertinent questions are being raised as to how the past year might have changed consumer behavior and if these behaviors are permanent or transitory. ViacomCBS commissioned a ground-breaking study using cultural tracking, a nationwide quantitative survey and consumer and expert interviews to craft a highly nuanced look at audiences and their individualized content pathways. The result is The Culture of Streaming study.

The Culture of Streaming Study

On-demand content today is more than just leisure consumption. It’s a library of feelings that enables us to explore fantasies and craft identities. In other words, because of the hyper-personalized way we consume content today and our dislocating experiences during the pandemic, content now connects deep into our psyches. This holds valuable lessons for marketers and media planning.

Ø  Borderless Identities. With the explosion of accessible streaming content and personalized algorithms, consumers now have the opportunity to explore and craft private identities. “In our study, 41% say that there’s a show, movie or online video that they love to watch that a stranger would find surprising or funny because of how their life would appear. Advanced targeting capabilities can model your audiences and find ways to connect with them wherever they are and beyond a broad demo classification” explained Mary Kate Callen, Vice President, Creative Strategy & Cultural Intelligence, Velocity, ViacomCBS. The lesson is that marketers must refocus their targeting strategies as legacy demographics no longer work. 

Ø  Library for Living. Content helps us find meaning, regulate emotions and guide new areas of personal growth. “People are complicated and nuanced and our ability to forge our own micro-culture identities has been accelerated by access to different content, culture and experiences,” she noted. Therefore, quality culture-defining programming is now a must-have for marketers.

Ø  Intimate Screens. Because of the intimacy of screens, the content we consume fosters a sense of belonging which can sometimes lead to obsession. She explained that, “If people don’t always fit into boxes, we need to advance the way we think about finding those audiences and where they are.” The takeaway is that marketers need to reach all screens at scale.

The Impact of the Pandemic

The rise of streaming over the last several years has enabled viewers to have more control over their own entertainment and content toolkit,” explained Callen. She noted that the pandemic has accelerated those behaviors in the following ways.

1.       More control over when and how one consumes content. “Thirty percent of Americans say they’ve snuck in watching content while they were supposed to be working,” noted Callen.

2.       Using content as a portal and a salve to manage emotions. She noted that, “Americans are using content as therapy and as a way to connect to others and to process a complex and uncertain world.”

3.       New streaming services were launched and existing streamers pushed a lot more content during the pandemic. As a result, many people missed physical connection so they glommed onto standoms and connected with others via content. “Thirty percent found themselves ‘going down an internet rabbit hole’, tracking down content across media and 9% or about 20M thought about getting a tattoo based on a show,” Angel Bellon, Senior Director of Creative Strategy & Cultural Intelligence at Velocity, ViacomCBS, shared.

According to Callen, these current behaviors are accelerators. “We believe many will last beyond lockdowns. Of course, as office work and commutes return to normal, some of the time spent shifting content may reduce but also may not go away entirely as remote and hybrid work environments will be more common.  What we do expect to continue post-pandemic is the ability to control your own content toolkit.”  

The pandemic also created a greater sense of family who were grateful for the extended quality time they shared with each other. “Content brings families and people closer together. Nearly 1/3 of people have deepened their connection with someone because they realized they were fans of the same show,” expressed Bellon who added, “Thirty percent of people have found someone more attractive because of the TV shows they loved.”

The Role of Technology

Algorithms help to guide content engagement, “and with so much choice, curation is necessary,” explained Callen. “But,” she added, “this year, ‘what did you do this weekend’ was replaced with ‘what are you watching.’ The desire to connect with others through shared viewing – either via live or linear – has never been greater. People found shared connections with others through fandom of a show.”

In fact, Bellon explained, “We are seeing the rise of a Content FOMO! It used to be about experiences but now it’s about shows. In our study, we learned that 71% says they’ve been excited to talk with someone about something they watched but couldn’t because the person hadn’t watched it yet.”

The degree to which fans are willing to forgo certain things if threatened with missing their favorite show’s finale was surprising; 33% would give up using social media for a week, 19% would give up caffeine for a week, 17% would give up romance for a month, 10% would give up showing for a week, 10% would pay $50 for a single episode, 7% would forgo a professional haircut.

The Impact of Content

This past year, content became an outlet, an escape and, “a place for storytelling that connects us to our emotional well-being. Fifty percent of people have used a show, movie or online video as a form of therapy. Twenty-eight percent of people claim that a TV show has already helped them become a better person,” stated Callen. 

According to Bellon, “We see nostalgia as having evolved into more of a timeless present – nostalgia for your own past but also nostalgia for a past you yourself didn’t experience. Gen Z are watching shows that they weren’t alive (or too young) to have watched the first time.  Twenty-six percent of audiences have become obsessed with a show that was popular before they were alive.” This exploration for content is expected to last long after the pandemic is over.

The Path Forward

At this pivotal moment, marketers need to refocus their targeting to better engage and reach borderless identities, connect with quality culture-defining programming and reach all screens at scale. This can be achieved by employing ViacomCBS EyeQ which is an integrated product suite that enables planners to be where the pertinent audience is, no matter how eclectic, unexpected and varied their navigation through content might be. To view the full report click here.

 This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com


Apr 6, 2021

Streaming Audio is the Perfect WFH Partner. Pandora and Mindshare Research Study

With many working from home in the past year, new audio consumption habits have been developed. For a company like Pandora, the question is, how have our listening habits changed over time? Is music still the dominating audio choice or are people gravitating to new formats such as podcasts? Pandora and Mindshare in partnership with Edison Research, launched a pivotal study in October 2020 to get to the core of America’s listening habits, particularly while working and how the pandemic has reshaped audio consumption.

To get a full grasp of the landscape, Edison conducted online interviews with adults 18+ who were employed either full or part time. These results were then compared with at-work studies conducted in 1997 and 2013. The 2020 study highlighted these emerging trends:

The Era of the Home Office is Here For 24 Hours a Day

While the work from home trend pre-dated Covid-19, it only represented 8% full time and 9% part time workers in 1997 and 2013. During the pandemic, it ballooned to 49% with higher income adults and parents of children over-indexing compared to all workers.  By contrast, Black Americans and lower-income adults are both 12% more likely to be currently working outside their home.

For those working from home, office hours have greatly expanded. It is no longer 9 to 5. Almost one in three Americans are currently working outside their normal work hours and their daily routines have been disrupted and often stressed.

Amidst Disruption, WFH is a Welcome Change … For Some 

Despite all of the pandemic shifts and stresses, those who can work from home are generally very satisfied with their employer (94%). However, this does not apply to everyone.  Black Americans are 38% more likely to be dissatisfied with their employer while Parents and Men are more likely to describe their employer as uncommunicative (130 index, 111 index) and impatient (146 index, 114 index), Further, Younger and Multicultural workers are more likely to describe their employer as more demanding right now (Gen Z: 147 index, Black: 111 index, Hispanics: 127 index).  

Work flexibility has become a high priority for workers (58%) giving them more time with family (65%), better work-life balance (58%), made them happier (56%) and more productive (55%), less stressed (50%) and more resourceful (50%). But that might depend on demographics and household composition. Many feel less connected to their co-workers (59%), find it harder to be a good parent (47%), have no separation between their work and home lives (46%), are working more hours (42%), are feeling more distracted (42%) or lonelier (41%).

Pandemic Parenting is Hard

While parenting can have its occasional challenges in normal time, the pandemic has brought on unique stress. Seventy percent of working parents say that they are also juggling their child’s at-home virtual learning and 6 in 10 of those with children learning at-home say that it has been difficult to balance work with virtual learning. Obviously, working Parents are especially likely to be feeling the pain from  juggling work with parenting including Women (118 index), Hispanics (111 index) and those with lower income (109 index).

Streaming Audio is a Welcome Activity

While media habits in general have evolved during the pandemic, streaming audio has been particularly successful.  The study found that 7 in 10 workers listen to any audio while working with higher levels for Gen Z (87%), Hispanics (82%), and Parents (79%). Audio has undergone a digital transformation. Compared to Edison Research’s 2013 at-work listening study, those who say they listen to streaming audio while working has grown by +57%, while those who listen to AM/FM radio while working has declined by -8%. Notably, other forms of digital audio are also experiencing growth during the pandemic – 41% of listeners are spending more time listening to podcasts, while 45% are spending more time listening to audiobooks.

Consumers Love Audio as a Mood Lifter

Audio is favored by consumers for a variety of reasons. The study found that it helps fill silence (71%), makes their workday go faster (69%), helps them escape (58%), makes them feel connected (52%), and provides a break from screens (50%). Audio also puts workers in a good mood (69%), help them stay focused (59%) and provides inspiration (52%).

And Audio Can Lead to Online Shopping Through Ads

Obviously, those who listen to audio are paying attention and are therefore more receptive to ads. Half of those who listen to streaming audio while working do so through an ad-supported service, meaning that there is significant opportunity for brands to reach and resonate with listeners during the workday. Many workers feel that they are even more receptive to ads while working; 37% of those who listen to ad-supported audio while working say that they pay more attention to streaming audio ads while they’re working than when they aren’t. Men, Gen Z, and Parents are more likely to agree.

Streaming audio ads have more impact and create a call to action. The study found that 45% of those who listen to ad-supported streaming audio while working have sought more info about a brand after hearing an online audio ad.

For marketers, the value and impact of streaming audio cannot be understated. Not only is this media form growing as more Americans work from home, its positive impact on daily life will continue to expand post pandemic as Americans enter a new normal.

This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com



Media Researchers: Politics Ruins Everything, Including Media Research

Media Researchers: Politics Ruins Everything, Including Media Research

by  @mp_joemandese,

Public perception about the inaccuracy of political polling during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections has contributed to a crisis of confidence for the survey-based research industry, especially media researchers, a roundtable of industry experts said Monday.

The roundtable, organized by media research vets Tim Brooks and Charlene Weisler as part of an ongoing series of “media insights salons,” can be viewed in its entirety below, but the consensus was that negative attention surrounding the accuracy of political polling, has exacerbated concerns about media research in general.

Coming at a time when many in marketing and media already have begun moving away from survey-based research in favor of data science, as well as concerns that the efficacy of surveys has also deteriorated due to changes in the way surveys are conducted, especially the volume and ubiquity of them, the experts said.

“If we’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it is that politics ruins everything,” quipped Betsy Frank, former research chief at Time Inc., Viacom, Zenith and other organizations, acknowledging that public perceptions have been tarnished. She blamed the news media, in part, for their coverage of political polling pre- and post the elections, but also acknowledged that the environment surrounding survey-based research has fundamentally changed, and that other methods -- including observational methods, or biometric techniques -- may be part of a longer term solution for measuring media.

“What’s happened now is the cynicism that we’ve seen in politics now has spilled over,” concurred Jack Wakshlag, former head of research at Turner, WB, CBS and currently an advisor to Simulmedia, adding, “There’s a decline in trust.”

Wakshlag noted there have always been issues with how survey-based research has been conducted, especially ensuring that they used proper sample sizes and representative ones, but he implied that many organizations have been let standards slide and that has contributed to a loss of confidence about research science overall.

He suggested some of the problems with sample representation -- including political polls -- could be offset by utilizing sample weighting techniques to compensate for the under-representation of key segments. That is one of the factors many researchers attributed to the inaccuracy of political polls in 2016 and 2020, because so-called “shy Trump supporters” may have been reluctant to participate in polls, or if they did, to give accurate answers about their voting plans.

Wakshlag noted that weighting has been an integral part of media research for decades, including panel-based research such as Nielsen’s, which has used weights to adjust for the under-representation of certain demographics, especially hard to reach ones.

Brooks, former research chief at Lifetime, USA Networks, and legendary ad agency N.W. Ayer, added that part of the problem with survey research is that methods have changed from the simple days of diary-based panel surveys and random-digital-dialing telephone surveys to online polls, which virtually anyone and everyone can conduct.

That latter point was something Paul Donato, Chief Research Officer of the Advertising Research Foundation, and Nielsen before that, said may be negatively impacting the quality of survey research, noting that many consumers -- especially those who were stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic -- may have become professional survey-takers in order to make a little money on the side from researchers and pollsters.

Donato said he doesn’t have any hard numbers to say exactly how much the survey universe has grown, but he noted that “response rates” for many forms of formal industry research soared during the pandemic, which is an indication that consumer behavior changed -- at least for a period of time -- during the pandemic.

Long-term, Donato suggested the best possible method of the media and marketing research industry might be a combination of techniques, including well-conceived and maintained panels that can control for the representation of various consumers, as well as data analytic methods that could be used to benchmark, and adjust each other.

He described this as a “proper balance between a well-curated panel and machine-curated data, and said that utilizing the two processes simultaneously would lead to the best “scientific combination” of research and data science.


Apr 2, 2021

Polling for Accuracy in the Census. An Interview with Steve Edgeller

As someone who is conducting genealogical research, I am aware of the discrepancies in past census records. Further, with the focus on the accuracy of recent political polls and the politicization of the recent census, especially during the pandemic, I was curious to know how challenging the data collection process was for a census taker.  

Steve Edgeller, who has worked with population data in his career, appreciates the importance of having a comprehensive and reliable census base for population/household demographics to inform his work in urban development. He was committed to working the census because, he explained, “Running my own business gave me the flexibility to work afternoons, evenings and weekends, which were the ideal times to catch people on their doorstep. The census period only lasted a couple of months, which gave me the opportunity to make some pocket money ($20 an hour).”

Charlene Weisler: Was this your first time working the census?

Steve Edgeller: This was my first time but a lot of my co-workers in the field were doing it for the second, third or fourth times, some well beyond their normal retirement age.

Weisler: Where did you work - what state, areas etc?

Edgeller: Most of my casework was located within half an hour drive from home in northern New Jersey, some in my own street!  I did need a car to get to the locations, and in most cases, to drive to the next address - which weren’t always next to each other. Some of my co-workers in city centers managed to do theirs on foot or by bus, especially when they were surveying whole apartment blocks at once.

As the census deadline approached however we were offered the chance to work out of state, and I joined a group of around 30 people who were flown from New York to Columbus, Georgia where there was a massive undercount that they needed to resolve. We spent three weeks in a hotel with rental cars, taking it from around 20% response up to nearly 80% response.

Weisler: What were you asked to do and how difficult was it to achieve at this time?

Edgeller: The job entailed knocking at predetermined addresses, where there had been no response received to date, and asking a household member to complete the full survey with me. I asked the questions and entered the answers straight into a smartphone app. They equipped me with an iPhone and language identification cards to use if English was not the first language. A simple survey could be completed in a couple of minutes, but it took a lot longer if there were more occupiers, children, relatives etc. Sometimes 15 minutes or more.

Weisler:  What data did you need to collect?            

Edgeller: The data collection was straightforward - name, date of birth, origin/race and relationship to other members of the household. There was a follow-up survey in some cases which went into employment, income, disability etc., although I wasn’t involved with that stage.

Weisler:  How did covid impact your work ... or not?

Edgeller: The Covid pandemic delayed the start of enumeration while new protocols were developed. It was a 100% no contact process though, and we were required to wear a mask at all times. We certainly couldn’t let respondents enter their names/data into the smartphone app, and it often took some time to ensure correct spelling. They did trial the option of enumerating by telephone, but this didn’t work as the numbers we were given were never accurate or up-to-date.

Weisler:  Did you see a pattern as to who cooperates and who doesn't? If so, what is the pattern?

Edgeller: I found on average that 50% of respondents were open and willing, or even insistent to ensure the survey was completed. The other 50% either didn’t answer (when you knew someone was home) or would refuse, often forcefully or with prejudice. The patterns weren’t related to age, gender, race or income, and I had some heartwarming interviews with busy single parents, people with very limited English and the elderly.  In others, there was deep distrust of the process, the government or just peoples' civil liberty.  Some people were polite and said they had already completed the survey (when I suspected they hadn’t) but others were extraordinarily rude or confrontational. We were encouraged to mark these respondents as dangerous to avoid repeated encounters by future enumerators.  Some of my co-workers were threatened with guns.

Weisler:  Do you think you were able to get truthful responses from people?

Edgeller: There were some people who were clearly reluctant to explain how many household members were staying there, particularly if they might not have been lawful residents. On the whole if someone was going to submit to the questions, they seemed to give truthful responses usually without hesitation.

Weisler:  Do you think your experiences were the same or different from other census workers?

Edgeller: We did sometimes meet our co-workers, and we were encouraged to participate in text based chat rooms to share (non-PII) information, experience and hints/tips.  In Georgia, we were staying in the same hotel and had team meetings several times a week, during which it was clear that everybody had very similar experiences, particularly with refusals to respond.

Weisler:  Do you think that you were able to achieve the most accurate information for an accurate census?

Edgeller: It wasn’t always easy to ensure information was 100% accurate, as people sometimes skipped family members if they thought there were too many to list. We were encouraged to at least record the total number of occupiers, even if someone refused to give names and ages etc.  Sometimes it could be difficult to complete the survey if somebody had moved since the census date (1st April 2020).

Fortunately, I had a lot of single family addresses which were easy to enumerate however some of my co-workers had multi-family apartment blocks or even areas with a significant homeless population.

It was very difficult to get into gated communities or secure apartment blocks without speaking to a superintendent or building manager.

Weisler: Did you get any feedback as to how the data looks?

Edgeller: As an enumerator our job was simply to obtain the data, which was very, very carefully controlled and treated as personally identifiable information (PII).  Retaining or writing down PII was a dismissible offence, and the smartphone app would transmit the data as soon as the interview had ended, it couldn’t be re-read, altered or amended. I enjoyed my time as an enumerator although it could involve long hours, and intense work on hot days. Despite all the knockbacks, I met some wonderful people who willingly shared their time, their stories and their information which made it all worthwhile. Roll on 2031!

This article first appeared in www.Mediapost.com



Mar 30, 2021

Julia Zangwill Shares the Results From the 10th Annual FreeWheel’s Video Marketplace Report

This year marks the 10th anniversary of FreeWheel’s Video Marketplace Report, a seminal study on the state and future of premium video. The study is a valuable track of the emergence and growing popularity of premium video in the marketplace.


“The report started in 2010,” explained Julia Zangwill, Director of Advisory Services at FreeWheel, “and we saw the need to highlight the trends in the premium ecosystem.” Over time it went from three pages to thirty pages and from just the U.S. market to the U.S. and the EU. The basis of the analysis is derived from the rich data set culled from the FreeWheel platform on premium video. “It’s all aggregated and anonymized and it is ad views data as well as video views data,” she explained.

Premium video is a term that can be loosely defined nowadays. For Zangwill, “It is a bit of a hot potato. The way we define it is around professionally produced, mostly long-form video, that has monetization rights. Those are MVPDs, Distributors as well as Programmers. It is the traditional television players that we focus on.”

Keeping it Fresh

In order to keep the study up-to-date, accurate and relevant in a highly changing and evolving ecosystem, changes were made in the analytical structure of the study. “We re-architected the way we analyze the world’s largest dataset of premium video ad impressions to reflect the changes we’ve seen in the market over the last ten years,” she noted and added, “This year, we see a long pattern of fragmentation across systems, content, and operations move towards integration, with notable examples of content aggregation, system simplification, and operational consolidation.” To that end, FreeWheel readjusted the way the database and queries were structured. “We took last year’s study, broke it apart and put it back together so we have a lot more flexibility going forward.”

Study Takeaways

Zangwill reflected that, “Overall, the past ten years we saw incredible growth. Technology was always one step ahead of consumers. When TV Everywhere services were first introduced in 2011 there was a lot of confusion on ‘how do I log in?’ and ‘on what devices does it work?’ and ‘what content is available inside or outside the home?’ But fast forward to the past year, we reached an inflection point where the technology and the content and the operations are starting to simplify.” In 2020, TVE made up 40% of ad views, but ad supported streaming services were 38% of ad views and continue to accelerate. With all of the device fragmentation, “Connected TV has emerged as #1, with close to 75% of device consumption” she stated.

What has facilitated CTV adoption, according to Zangwill, was the rich choice of high quality content especially in 2013. She referred to it as “the Golden Age of TV comprised of high caliber, scripted shows including AMC’s Breaking Bad and FX’s The Shield,” that consumers wanted to view on the larger screen. This timing, aligned with advanced technology like Roku boxes and Firesticks, accelerated CTV adoption. “Back then it was 2% of ad views and it more than doubled the next year. Seven years later, CTV makes up 62% of ad views proving CTV is here to stay,” she concluded.

The study also confirmed the Power of Live Sports. “Five years ago, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil led consumers to watch more live sports on digital platforms than ever before.  In 2020 live content made up 55% of content consumption, and we expect the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will set new records later this year,” she noted.

Another takeaway is the rise of Programmatic. “It is another new data cut that we can now track moving forward. It was in its infancy in the past decade, specifically around video. But it has been in a mature state now for a long time. In 2015, header bidding made the transition from display to video. Today 24% of impressions are executed programmatically,” she explained, “We expect to see that accelerate and continue in the next few years.”

The pandemic, according to Zangwill, created decision fatigue which led viewers to passively stream content throughout the day to fill the time. This trend could continue with live sports coming back.

Next Steps

Looking to the future, “There is a lot of competition out there when it comes to ad supported services and there are going to be organizations to opt-in for a low cost value proposition. There will also be other players who are going to be more premium and have a higher price point that offers a different ad experience or different content. The value proposition will become very important,” she predicted.

This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com