Best of ’22: More Than Research

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Much like many other daily media efforts during this time of year, we’re reprising “best of” from the soon-to-be ending year (and not a minute too soon, may I add).  Each day, we will attempt to connect something that just occurred or may happen in the world now with something we previously mused on.

The 2023 Media Insights and Engagement Conference is being held next month at the beautiful La Costa Resort and Spa in San Diego.  I’m very proud to say I am affiliated with Informa Connect, the company that is staging this conference, as it did the previous one held last spring in Nashville, the first I had attended since the pandemic.  Indeed, there is a link below for you to register to attend, and if you read what I wrote earlier this year you know how impassioned I am about the concept of actually putting people in the same place at the same time in three dimensions.  If you didn’t–well, lucky you, you can just scroll down and read it now.

Like last year’s affair, and the fall fete held in San Antonio, it provides attendees with the chance to learn first-hand about seminal issues in the media industry, and after the tumultuous year we are about to conclude such dialogue is needed more than ever.  Bluntly, it’s been a year of unprecedented change, fiscal chaos, frustration with both the inability to accurately and completely measure audience and the accountability of those empowered enough to offer their own proprietary metrics to be transparent with their clients as well as the industry at large.

And, yes, even if you don’t happen to work in media, it affects you.  You’re about to be slowly coerced into a separate password arrangement with Netflix–a platform determined to increase revenue that has already missed projections on how many of its subscribers would be open to seeing ads,  If you don’t think you will reach an inflection point of put up or shut up soon, you’re sadly mistaken.  And if, like me, you have held on to DIRECTV primarily for NFL Sunday Ticket as a company once known for superior customer service has deteriorated to the point of utter incompetence, you are literally counting the minutes until you, too, will become a cord-cutter, skewing the reported age cutoff for such moves ever so slightly.  How much the move to YouTube TV will ultimately cost remains to be seen, but by all indications it will still be cheaper, and a lot less aggravating.

So this year’s conference is even more crucial, especially for its attendees.  Because aside from the far warmer (we hope) venue it will be held at, it is also offering the following caveat on its home page, which now means far more wonderful people have something in common with yours truly besides a passion for insights.

The qualifier “former” before our titles.

Here’s the very first thing you see when you click on the conference website:

Media Insights & Engagement Gives Back

Media Insights & Engagement Conference is proud to launch a new program making the event accessible for colleagues who have been impacted by recent industry disruptions in the way of layoffs, M&As, travel freezes, and more. If your role has recently been eliminated and you would still like to learn and network with your colleagues, please fill out the form below to participate. Once reviewed and approved, you will receive a free Media Insights All Access Pass to attend the next event, Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2023, in San Diego.

To take part in this initiative, complete the form here and a member of our team will get back to you.

Executives like Liz Huzarik, the onetime research czar of Warner Media.  Last year’s conference co-chair Theresa Pepe, another WMD casualty.  Many, many others with equally strong resumes that were collateral damage at AMC, Sony, NBCU, and countless startups.  Vendors that never could close the deal.  Ratings services that believe the solution to their myriad problems is to purge themselves of experienced talent that at least got them to the table with the demanding clients that are still around.

When we wrote about this last spring, the urgency was personal.  Now it’s sadly a pandemic of its own.  A pandemic of uncertainty.

But as the conference website urges, this is a wonderful chance to turn uncertainty into opportunity.  And, frankly, a La Costa sunset might be the very thing that gives us all a needed reboot, as well as a chance to truly catch up and, I pray, give each other the hugs I suspect we all need.

I personally hope you will join us.

I‘ve been around media for more than four decades professionally and more than six decades personally.  If you haven’t already figured it out, I live to experience the connection of content and mind and the business and psychological dynamics that go into it.   I consider myself more experienced and accomplished than many, but hardly unique and even more desiring to learn something new every day rather than sit back and wax nostalgic about my past experiences.   But I do value the context and grounding those experiences have afforded me, and that’s why I’m personally excited about finally getting back to an in-person conference.

The Media Insights and Engagement Conference will meet in person for the first time in more than two years beginning May 23 in Nashville, TN.  I have had the privilege of being involved in the organization and chairing of this conference in previous incarnations, when it was aligned with a marketing arm of the cable TV industry, CTAM, and was over simplistically called a “research conference”.  Well, that’s a label I was passionate about getting rid of.

You see, many on the front lines of media sales and content creation have historically seen “research people” as detached, robotic suppliers of tedious rows of numbers and statistics that were often relegated to windowless back rooms and long nights of supervising the preparation of charts and decks that would often serve as little more than props for the agitated and emotional meetings with prospective buyers, whether they be networks or advertisers.

Four or five decades ago, media was basically television, buyers were essentially three privately owned television networks and advertisers bought 30 or 60 second spots in their programs.  Decades before that, the advertising agencies essentially WERE the suppliers of content, often swapping out shows and producers several times a year within time slots they’d negotiate for on behalf of their clients.  The earliest successes on TV were affiliated with products.  Texaco Star Theatre.  The Kraft Music Hall.  Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre.  The Bell Telephone Hour.  We could go on and on.

As technology improved and competition exploded, data became not only more prolific but also more essential to negotiations.  Research was by necessity now being invited to more and more frontline meetings, if only to help explain what a demographic is.  And, equally as crucially, the creative community was acknowledging that being in touch with how an audience might respond to content would be an even more important first step in the road to monetization.   Studying the whys to the whats of consumer and viewer behavior, particularly among more desirable audience sectors, was critical to the growth and influence of the likes of Nickelodeon, MTV, CNN, FOX and FX.  More recently, Apple, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Facebook have become best in class in the tech sector and the convergence of Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

A new generation of leadership and intelligence has emerged, and the word “research” tends to be buried in job descriptions, if for no other reason than it is but one of the roles we try to fill.  More frequently, the words “insights”, “”solutions”, “analytics”, science” and “intelligence” are in key executives’ job descriptions.  Television, even cable television, is now one of many components of media.   And the media landscape, frankly, is at an inflection point.

Traditional media has seen unprecedented audience and subscriber fragmentation.  The ability of any one company to accurately measure it has been the subject of numerous mainstream and business media coverage as we head into perhaps the most tumultuous ad upfront in history. Multiplatform measurement and monetization is more essential than ever to the very existence of companies that have been bought and sold for billions of dollars this decade alone.  And, frankly, this industry NEEDS the opportunity to converge once again to bring these issues to light, to collaboratively learn what common challenges and opportunities exist, and to exchange ideas like human beings once did–face-to-face, dressed nicely, and in a central setting.

The pandemic reduced this conference to a series of zoom calls in recent months, as many of us juggled marginal Wi-Fi connections and home priorities as we attempted to still be brilliant.  One of the first such get-togethers enthusiastically touted the ability for us to “see each other online for the first time!”, which given the demand reduced most faces to almost unrecognizable microscopic slide size.  One of the big poll questions was what we had been doing since we had last gathered.  In my breakout room, we had six different people reply they learned how to bake banana bread.

Now I have nothing against banana bread or cooking per se–I, for one, have honed my own skills and find the zen of meal preparation to be remarkably therapeutic.  But, honestly, there’s way more important stuff going on in this industry, and it’s high time we got back to being fully engaged in it.

So I’m offering you the opportunity to do so as well.  This site will, as of today, begin to populate a series of articles focusing on some of the key issues being prepared for the agenda that is being put together as we speak.   Anyone who registers for the conference using my code will receive a substantial discount.  More importantly, you’ll get the chance to meet and engage with us in person, actually ask questions and perhaps learn how to take this intelligence and apply it to not only your business but also your life.

Considering investing in NFTs?  The conference will explain that.  Interested in how to effectively tell stories through music?  Yep, we’ll discuss that too.  Want to know why you’re addicted to Ted Lasso?  Uh huh, that’s planned as well.  And yes, if you’re a media professional or simply want to portray one, you’ll have a virtual Harvard Business School curriculum to draw from.

And, I’m willing to bet, you’ll probably get a few great recipes to boot.

The countdown begins this morning.  See y’all in Music City, I pray.

Until next time….

Pricing & Venue | The Media Insights & Engagement Conference (

POSTSCRIPT:  We’re adding the following link with every repost through the end of the year because, well, you’ll see the reasons if you click on it.  If you like what you’ve read, and perhaps are inclined to do more catch up, I’d greatly appreciate your consideration of taking the requested action.

Fundraiser by Steven Leblang : Steve Leblang (


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