We all see how rapidly technology is changing. Every week seems to bring a new means of video distribution, new business models and amazing new gadgets that simultaneously enhance and complicate our professional lives. Would anyone like an interactive mobile 3-D holographic genius-phone with a million customized apps and a fold-out 52-inch screen?
Something else we’re assaulted with just about every week is another research study investigating a different piece of this puzzle. If anything is more difficult than keeping track of constant technology changes, it’s keeping track of—and evaluating—meaningful research on that technology.
In the midst of this technological tornado, the Media Consumption and Engagement Committee of the Council for Research Excellence has decided to take a look at what research is available and relevant on the new video world. The CRE, a consortium of major users of video data, was founded by Nielsen in 2005 and is perhaps best known for its Video Consumer Mapping Study. In order to better understand consumer interaction with the new video technologies, observers went into homes across the country in 2008 to "shadow" consumers as they interacted with media of all types. It was the first comprehensive snapshot of the new world of U.S. media at the household level.
Many other parties are doing excellent research in this space as well, and the goal of the new CRE study is to assemble and analyze as much of that research as possible. Stage one of a wide-ranging User Experience (or "UX") Study launched by the CRE is, in effect, a "map" of the video new media research landscape, much as the earlier study was a map of consumer video usage. Contractor BIA/Kelsey has assembled more than 150 studies, including both academic and industry research published over the last decade or so. The studies all address questions such as:
  • What drives the choice of screens for the consumer?
  • How does viewing vary with chosen screen?
  • What is an appropriate vocabulary and methodology for understanding viewing styles?
  • What is the context of use across various screens—complementary, additive or zero-sum?
  • What are the best methodologies to understand these uses?
The effort is more than a simple bibliography. The idea is to mine all these studies for insights and compile them into an electronic database that is available to the public online. Most citations are accompanied by a synopsis, key findings and assigned keywords for search optimization. Findings that specifically address the questions listed above are highlighted. In some cases a link is provided to the full study.
While the review is ongoing, several themes have already emerged:
  • Live TV viewing still accounts for the lion’s share of media viewing time;
  • Screen choice is driven by two factors, best screen available and best function available;
  • Different screens tend to fulfill different needs; bigger is not necessarily best;
  • Multi-screen use is complementary rather than cannibalistic; and
  • Researching cross-platform video media usage will require multiple methodologies.
Among the studies included in the database are CTAM’s "Crossing Over: Understanding Viewer Multi-Screen Migration" (2009), Glenn Enoch and Kelly Johnson’s "Cracking the Cross-Media Code: How to Use Single-Source Measures to Examine Media Cannibalization and Convergence" (2010), and Nielsen’s “State of the Media” reports.
The insights one can glean from the collection are wide-ranging, including audience engagement with specific TV programs and program types, the multiplatform impact on traditional media use for news, dimensions of the multi-screen universe, gaming, "long tail" implications, cloud-based content services and ad avoidance. If you want to know what’s out there, or if you need a cram course on what’s been learned so far, this is a useful place to start.
Meanwhile, I’m still looking for a study on that interactive mobile 3-D holographic genius-phone with a fold-out 52-inch screen.
(Tim Brooks is a former head of research at Lifetime, USA Network and other companies, and a former CTAM board member and chair of the CTAM Research Committee. He is also active in the Council for Research Excellence, of which he was a founding member. He is currently a media and marketing consultant. He can be reached at [email protected])

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