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Advice for Future Researchers

Up-and-coming or future researchers were on the minds of several presentations at the 2019 Media Insights & Engagement Conference, which took place January 29-31 in Los Angeles. These included a panel of high-level research execs (The Media Industry: Behind the Curtain), a session from Viacom (The Future Researcher), and a tech perspective (What Does a Machine-Learning & AI-Enabled Media Organization Look Like). And, at least two of the “Off the Record Industry Conversations” (when attendees broke up into a dozen discussion groups) discussed future researchers, or researchers now vs. then.

There seemed to be three main themes that I took away from these sessions. Although I recognize that as “experienced” – OK, old – perhaps my perspective is different than those who are actually early in their careers.

 

The first theme is the importance of understanding the digital ad marketplace. What are the mechanics of how the selling process works? Which sources of data are being utilized? Are there limitations to those data?

The second theme is being able to bridge the gap between data analytics and more traditional market research. Data scientists can work wonders with the tidal wave of behavioral data to which we now have access. But behavioral data doesn’t tell you anything about the “whys” – the human feelings and motivations that drive behavior. Researchers who can marry the two sides of behavior and motivations will be in demand.

The third theme of note is the ability to communicate insights, whether by report, infographic, or email. Key today is the ability to do this succinctly and to the point – as one speaker put it, so it fits on an iPhone screen. Great research is no good if not put into a form that management can digest and act upon.

Sampling Issues 

Lastly, my two cents. I’d like to see junior researchers truly understand the concepts of traditional representative and projectable random samples. It’s true that very little research today is still done with these types of samples. But my experience is that most younger researchers don’t understand the differences between representative samples, opt-in online samples, and census samples. This means they can’t properly assess the quality of the data sets they do have to use.

Ironically, the attendance of younger researchers at all conferences seems to be less now than it was in the past. This is most likely a result of reduced staffs and the cost of sending people to conferences. Maybe it’s time to start encouraging higher attendance among this cohort and treating it as an investment, not an expense.

Want to catch up on the conference? See 2019 session summaries for each conference day here:

  • Day 1 of the 2019 MIE conference: Day 1 (Jan 29 2019)
  • Day 2 of the 2019 MIE conference: Day 2 (Jan 30 2019)
  • Day 3 of the 2019 MIE conference: Day 3 (Jan 31 2019)

About the Author: David is an award-winning media research expert and author of “The Genius Box,” a new book about the evolution of the television-audience relationship. He is principal of TiceVision LLC, a media consultancy, and can be reached at david@ticevision.com.

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