Colleen Fahey Rush on the Future of Media

by Colleen Fahey Rush, Strategic Insights and Research, Viacom Media Networks

A common belief is that technology will shape the future of media. I’d argue that the consumer, and how consumers harness that technology, is what really drives the future of media.  Take, for example, geo-location services created in the early ’00s. It was years before consumers adopted the technology – because they weren’t ready. Now look at Foursquare and its 10 million-strong community of users. The takeaway? It’s all about how a technology satisfies consumer desires that make it hit.

Our relentless research into our audiences’ attitudes and behaviors makes one thing abundantly clear:  there has never been a better time to be a fan – be it of Snooki, SpongeBob or Stephen Colbert. Viewers have a powerful desire to have relationships with their favorite shows and brands – to interact, to share and to make their voices heard. Because they can.

Today’s fans follow shows and characters 24/7 on Twitter, watch clips online, download apps to play games, “like” talent on Facebook…and the list will only get longer. The velocity of change in consumer behavior is keeping us on our toes, driving us to create richer, seamless cross-platform experiences. At this moment in time, we’re seeing our viewers turn to smartphones and tablets for more of their favorite content – and we’re meeting them there with apps like MTV’s WatchWith. While this means that TVs have to share eyeballs, mobile devices are actually providing a complementary experience through these apps and second-screen experiences, bringing our fans closer to their favorite brands than ever before.

The future will bring even more appetite to personalize and expand the relationship fans have with their favorite shows.  And we’ll keep listening to them to build those relationships.  That’s where it all starts – by knowing our audiences inside and out – kids, guys, Millennials, Adultsters, Boomers, moms. Our consumer insights drive everything we do – the programs we make, the tone we take and the experiences we create. So what is the future of media? Just ask your audiences – they’re more than happy to tell you.

Colleen Fahey Rush is Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer, Viacom Media Networks.

This op-ed first appeared in MediaPost’s Future of Media blog.

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