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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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My MRG Conference 2011 speech

At the MRG Conference 2011 (pdf link to programme here) I was given a three-minute slot to talk about anything I wanted under the banner “Six industry speakers share the good, the bad and the ugly from our industry”.

This is (roughly) what I said:

Good afternoon everyone. As Research Manager for Mobile, Social and Syndication at the BBC I’m understandably enthusiastic about these areas. So today I’m going to take the first area I mentioned – mobile – and explain how its characteristics make it appropriate as a research platform.

The first is universality – mobile has more coverage than any other research method. A big claim maybe, but Ofcom stats say that

  •  77% of households have PC-based internet
  • 85% of adults have a landline
  •  91% of adults have a mobile, and this rises to 98% among 16-54 year olds

More than 91% of the UK might have a home and can be reached by door to door, but realistically, once you factor in accessibility and interviewer safety, mobile will have the largest potential audience for research – though the key word there is potential; there is still the small hurdle of getting the audience’s contact details.
The second characteristic I want to mention is relating to proximity. More than any other platform, mobile is our go-to device. It is nearly always turned on, it is nearly always on our person and thus it is when we have some free time or are bored it is the first thing we turn – in fact I can see a few phones in the audience now. This captive audience on mobile has massive potential for research purposes, though we need to ensure what we ask them to do is both interesting and relevant. Easier said than done, perhaps.

But, this is predicated on the notion that we need our respondent to interact. We can do many great things on mobile – video diaries, photos, status updates etc and in real-time. But one of the real strengths of mobile is its latency. Why ask people what media they are consuming when mobile sensors can match sound to TV and radio; record web browsing, use GPS to plot outdoor reach and time spent; and soon use near field communication to record sales of newspapers and magazines. Admittedly, not all phones can do this just yet, and privacy is obviously an issue, but again, there is big potential.

The young will drive this, for mobile is a youthful medium – 16-24s say they would miss mobile the most if they had to give up media. These behaviours might not be mainstream yet, but a dozen years ago owning a mobile wasn’t mainstream, and look where we are now. But there is also a second aspect to this point around youth, and that is that the medium is nascent. We’re still learning all the time – no one can say they’ve cracked mobile in terms of capturing and utilising. This is a huge opportunity for research agencies both big and small to move into.

This is an opportunity because it doesn’t yet exist. There is plenty of innovation at the edges, but the market isn’t yet mature. So while I’ve identified several benefits to mobile research, they come with caveats and are more theoretical than practical. So as much as I want to say mobile is good, I can’t really. I’ve talked about the universality, the go-to nature, the latency and the youthfulness. That’s U.G.L.Y and it ain’t got no alibi, it’s ugly.

sk

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MRG Malta 2010 Conference

The IPA/Simon Broadbent Award for Best PaperI now have my first conference presentation behind me. And my first (I’m hoping there will be more) conference win.

The event was the Media Research Group 2010 conference, held in Malta.

The presentation was on Brandheld: Unlocking the Potential Value of the Mobile Internet (go here and here for more information on the project).

And the win was the IPA/Simon Broadbent Award for the best conference paper. The award is pictured to the right (photographed under a light – it is actually silver) – I get to parade it around for a couple of days before sending it back to Lynne Robinson at the IPA to have it engraved.

Winning this award was particularly satisfying as it was voted for by the conference delegates. I’m very appreciative of all of the nice comments I’ve received over the past couple of days.

On reflection, I think there were three key reasons behind Brandheld winning:

  1. Flattery – I started my presentation by taking a photo of the audience, and called them beautiful (they were, and still are)
  2. Subconscious Suggestion – I spoke to a fair number of people in a restaurant and bar the night before the voting. Since no-one can really say anything bad to my face, I received a lot of nice compliments. As the night wore on, memories of the conversation, and indeed my presentation, would become fuzzier, with people only remembering that they mentioned that the presentation was good.
  3. A fantastic project – the award is for best paper, not presentation. Brandheld is unquestionably the most interesting, challenging and rewarding project I’ve worked on. As such, it is a team award with Alex, Kat, Daniel, Carolina, Rebecca and Lee-Ann all deserving of recognition for their massive contribution

As for the conference itself, I had a good time and met some really interesting, friendly people – some of whom I knew already, some who I knew “virtually” and some I didn’t.

I’d never been to a foreign conference before. Prior to attending, I was quite against the idea, since the cost makes it more difficult for smaller companies such as Essential to attend. After attending, I’m more ambivalent, if not totally sold on the idea, as there are clearly some advantages to holding the conference abroad

  • Few people had any reason to do any socialising outside of the conference group. Even if the event were held in Cornwall, the Highlands or another far-flung UK location, there would be more excuses to temporarily leave
  • A totally new city/resort encourages exploration and additional socialising among attendees
  • Continental bars are open later than British pubs during the week (and the warm weather means everyone can stand outside)

While I felt I got involved in the networking with vim and gusto, I didn’t make many notes for the sessions I attended. The reasons being

  • Prior to my presentation, I was making last-minute amendments in my head. As much as I tried paying attention to the speakers, I ended up getting distracted
  • Immediately after my presentation, I was primarily relieved but also going through things I should have said, particularly with the Q&A
  • My subconscious suggesting went on for longer than it probably should have done, which meant I missed the early speakers on Friday

Some of the things I did jot down include

  • Nigel Walley from Decipher made some interesting references to issues with the continuing convergence of the web and TV. The first was that device manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung are generally terrible at services, since their business models are based around replacement devices. Without things such as backwards compatibility, their web TVs become obsolete very quickly. And secondly, the fragmentation of innovation in this area is making it hard for media agencies to plan campaigns – for instance, should they go for a platform campaign (all of the different ad formats on Virgin) or a channel campaign (VOD formats on all platforms)
  • Guy Holcroft from GfK NOP (disclosure: a former line manager of mine) said that we are spending roughly half of our waking hours (7 hours and 5 minutes actual but 8 hours 48 minutes when deduplicating simultaneous consumption) per day on media or communications
  • Richard Maryniak from the Conspiracy Group channeled David Ogilvy to say that the pirate is not a thief; she is your girlfriend and that, ultimately, piracy is about sharing
  • James Myring of BDRC Continental drew the distinction between primary (using p2p or streaming sites) pirates and secondary pirates (via mixtapes/shared drives) and said that ethics weren’t really a barrier to people pirating. Instead it is IT issues – concerns over viruses or a lack of knowledge on how to find the relevant materials. It was probably missing because it is too hard to find people who admit to it, but it would have been good to have seen primary pirates split out into uploaders, seeders and downloaders.
  • There was supposed to be a big debate on piracy but sadly, there wasn’t much heated discussion as researchers at media owners were either unwilling to go on the record or unsure of their company’s position with regards to piracy, and so the conversation remained polite
  • Charlie Gordon from TNS Kantar Media said that the most tweeted game of the World Cup was Japan-Denmark, but that he has been unable to rationalise the reason why
  • David Hulbert of Ravensbeck said that researchers shouldn’t look to explain the past but to predict the future. Researchers should seek to redefine the problems businesses face, and position themselves as people able to provide decision-making under uncertainty
  • Paul Goode from Comscore advocated panels over site metrics, since cookie deletion meant that site metrics are too over-inflated. He said site metrics can be fine for single day campaigns, but unfortunately there aren’t many single day campaigns

For more details, go to Robert Bain‘s updates on the Research website

In sum, it was an enjoyable couple of days and it will probably take me an equal amount of time to fully recover. The conference programme ran without a (noticeable) hitch so big congratulations to Stuart McDonald and Neil Mortensen for an event that clearly required a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put on.

Thank you once again to the people who voted for me. And congratulations to the other award winners – MediaCom for Best Media Agency, BSkyB for Best Media Owner, Ipsos MediaCT for Best Research Supplier and The Guardian for best research initiative.

I hope to upload a “Director’s Cut” of the presentation within the next week (without the 20 minute restriction, I can expand on a few areas I had to gloss over, and I should also remove some of my bad jokes).

I’m not yet sure what is happening with the videos of the event, but if they are put online I will link to them.

sk