The Media Moments That Aren’t

There’s always lots of talk about targeting a specific demographic with content. If you are building a new brand, you’re supposed to go through an exercise where you create personas that represent the people you want to target. These personas should have the same demographic specifics as the people you want to target in the real world.

That is, of course, a tried and true strategy.

But what about targeting a specific media moment or habit? The same person who likes the New Yorker also likes to read the comics and also likes to watch reality tv. It all depends on the moment you catch her in. In our modern era there is no shame in a grown man playing video games or a young teenager getting caught up in 5,000 word Teen Vogue article about the state of politics. Demographics aren’t destiny.

Emergent Properties of Consumption

Shifts in technology change the way media is consumed. Specifically, it changes the moments and behaviors around media consumption. When we launched Circa in 2011/12 we were one of the first mobile-first news operations. We didn’t want to target a demographic of people, we wanted to target all people who were on the go. We wanted to target everyone who was waiting in line for their coffee and had 2 minutes to wait. This was not a play for a specific demographic, this was targeting a behavior.

THINK ABOUT THIS SCENARIO (an example from Jim Brady)

Thirty years ago, if you and a buddy were at a bar and your friend went to the bathroom … that was your time to sit with your beer and your thoughts. You would stare off in the distance. Maybe a polite smile to others at the bar. You had time with your thoughts.

Today, if your friend goes to the bathroom, you grab your phone and most likely consume some kind of content (media or entertainment). In fact, if you DON’T reach for your phone, you look like a weirdo. Other people at the bar will be concerned about the person sitting at the bar alone with their thoughts. What a freak!

That’s how ubiquitous the “quick wait” media moment has become.

Technology opens up and creates new “media moments.” The self-driving car could turn ALL transportation into a new kind of media moment where our hands will be as free as our ears (potentially disrupting audio).

Some media moments that used to exist are going away. In the 80’s and 90’s growing up, my family would often eat dinner with the television on. That was the focal point of dinner or at the very least, the focal point immediately after dinner. That media moment, in my observation (not backed up with studies) is slowly going away because of streaming. The television sitcom no longer exists along with TGIF shows and Saturday morning cartoons.

Don’t get me wrong: TGIF media consumption and Saturday morning “give the kids something to do” content still happens. But since it’s no longer tied to a box that stays in your living room, these media moments are expressing themselves and being shaped in different ways.

Media moments are not “things in and of themselves” — they are byproducts of other behaviors. They are “emergent properties.” If we change our technology and then our behaviors, we will change the media moments that manifest.

It is the job of media and content producers to think through how media moments like picking up the newspaper or watching a sitcom while eating dinner are no longer relevant and what media moments are taking their place.

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