In 2000, Norman Lear – a groundbreaking writer and producer starting with the dawn of TV – founded the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, “a multidisciplinary research and public policy center dedicated to exploring the convergence of entertainment, commerce and society.”
At the end of April of this year, the Lear Center announced a new initiative to measure the impact of media and journalism on the world around us.
Backed by $3.25 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Media Impact Project is designed to establish the Lear Center as a hub for best practices, innovation, and thought leadership in media metrics. Its goal is to “help media organizations, journalists, and social change-makers build on the power of storytelling through data and impact measurement.”
“Despite advances in big data, surprisingly primitive metrics are still commonly used to assess audience engagement with content and its effects on individual perceptions and behaviors. Page views, TV ratings, ‘likes,’ and retweets alone don’t reveal how media influences people’s awareness or actions. This is a challenge for organizations that hope to connect audiences with important social issues and support long-term change.”
– From the press release
The plan is to bring together social and behavioral scientists, journalists, analytics experts, an open source tool analytic development team, project leaders, technical experts, and partners in the private and non-profit sectors to collaborate to test and create new ways to measure the impact of media. They want to derive techniques for content creators, distributors, and media funders to measure and improve their work and strengthen engagement.
The idea germinated more than 10 years ago when the Lear Center tackled the problem of measuring the social impact from a character on “The Bold and the Beautiful” soap opera contracting AIDS. The key performance indicator was the number of calls about HIV to the Centers for Disease Control. The center realized that it was making an impact.
The Lear Center wants to measure how media influences the ways people think and act. With the advent of social, we now have visibility into what people are consuming and what they think is worthy of repeating.
From, “we think they watched it” to, “they told 500 friends who told 3,000 more” is a big step up. Adding in sentiment analysis for positive and negative reactions improves the ability to learn how storytelling connects people and inspires action.
The group at the center will work on new tools and methods for measuring media impact. They’ll create a data analytics center to collect and analyze diverse data streams related to how people engage with media and provide technical assistance to media organizations to improve their practices.
Keep your eye on this group as they – hopefully – improve the quality of digital data collection and analysis for media organizations; determine the impact that media projects have on knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of target audiences and communities; and generate another data stream from which we, as marketers, can make better-informed, data-driven decisions.
Should be a very interesting group to keep an eye on.
Leverage of Social Networking image via Shutterstock.