Trends, Opportunities, And Media Multitasking, Oh My!

Trends, opportunities and a little something called “binge viewing” was discussed at The Reaching Audiences conference that took place Monday and Tuesday in the College of Media and Communication.

What is binge viewing? According to Kelly Edelstein, owner of Research Narrative and main speaker of the Trends and Opportunities presentation, it’s a new activity all thanks to Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu. People can watch half or all of a season in just one sitting, when in reality, the series is meant to be viewed overtime.

Edelstein said it gives an arch to storytelling and how the episodes of the TV show flow. For example, she said, in certain shows characters develop over time, plots thicken, imagery is supposed to gradually emerge.

“With people watching more shows in a shorter amount of time, does this mean that in the future characters will develop at more of a rapid pace?” Edelstein asked

Topics like binge viewing and other research topics were covered over the two-day affair, targeting Hispanic media and market research with many sessions of different topics for students and faculty to attend.

Edelstein was accompanied by a four-person panel to react for comment in regards to her presentation.

The panel consisted of Alison Bryant, the founder of Play Science, Betsy Frank, Time Inc.’s chief of research and insights officer, Bill Seitzler, senior consultant at SmithGeiger and Tech alumni, and finally Randy Crimmins, who is also a Tech alumni and vice president of marketing for United Supermarkets.

With the panel and speaker ready to go, Edelstein began her presentation by defining the term,“trends.” She said trends are the entire discipline of media research.

Edelstein said from the time that she was in graduate school to today, there have been so many forms and renovations of methods due to trends.

“As a researcher there’s been a combination of methods. It went from being you only have to know three or four to now you have to know 20,” Edelstein said. “It’s amazing how much that’s changed in five to ten years, really. “

After briefly describing trends and how they affect media research, she brought up the topic of media multitasking.

“Who here sits in front of the TV with their tablet, laptop, cell phone, and there are four screens in front of them all at once?” She asked. “It’s fairly common behavior now.”

In fact, Edelstein said, it’s so common that Boston College did an academic study in 2009 over media multitasking. She said the researchers brought students into a room and had them sit down at a laptop and TV to let the students do whatever they wanted with those two devices for about half an hour. The researchers were observing where the student’s eyes were looking during those thirty minutes.

Edelstein said the thing that was so fascinating after the study was when asking participants, ‘How many times do you think you switched where you were looking from one device to the other?’ people only guessed 15 times (which equivalents out to every couple of minutes). Edelstein said that in reality the study showed that students switched their eye movement between devices about 120 times. They were not staying with one device for more than 46 seconds total.

“We talk about media multitasking like it’s so great, when in fact, we’re pretty bad at it,” said Edelstein. “We have really low attention spans as the result. It’s an area that I don’t think we fully understand just yet because there’s a lot to learn…especially if we keep adding these platforms. “

She said nowadays went it comes to research, it’s not about being an expert at just one method anymore, it’s about learning all of the different things and understanding how to package and align them with business models.

Edelstein said communication has become an essential on a personal platform when it comes to research. She said it’s not about the data anymore, and it’s not just about being a methodologist. Edelstein said It’s about being able to communicate that outwardly to people and to understand the whole business concept so you’re actually absorbing the information correctly.

She said her main focus when it comes to media research right now is connected TV (think along the lines of Apple TV, or how you can plug-in your Xbox or PS3). Edelstein said this kind of technology has become the norm and not an exception.

After her presentation, the panel had a few lasting comments in regards to trends and opportunity to the media that is taking place now and what is to come in the future.

In regards to the possible changes of story telling within TV shows, Betsy Frank said it’s interesting because people still need a beginning, middle, and end, but nowadays it doesn’t necessarily have to be in that order.

Alison Bryant said the questions being asked in research now are more complex than they ever have been. She said people and research as a whole are not evolving, but reinventing.

Tech alumni, Bill Seitzler had lasting words that seemed to resonate with the panel and the audience.

“What’s cool yesterday isn’t going to be cool tomorrow,” he said.

About Lauren Estlinbaum

Entertainment Director    —    Journalism major, Class of 2014
Lauren Estlinbaum grew up in Pearland, Texas, south of Houston (go Texans). She is a journalism major with a minor in apparel design. Lauren would like to work for either a fashion or lifestyle publication post-graduation. As she likes to say, she considers fashion magazines survival guides.

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