One thing most successful media companies we’ve worked with will agree on is that their audiences are complex and interact with their content in multiple ways. A one-size-fits-all approach to user research just won’t cut it, as the number of ways media audiences interact with content can vary wildly from person to person, even within the same target demographic. Here’s an example. Consider any major sports event. What happens before, during, and after the big game? How many different ways are fans interacting with game-related content? Are they using social media to comment on a play? Did they learn about the event because of a friend’s social media activity? Are they participating in a fantasy league? Are they looking up advertisers after seeing a commercial they saw during a break? Are they researching commentary about the winning team’s prospects for the playoffs? Which channels and devices are they using for each of those interactions, how do they connect to each other, and what is the experience like? There’s a wealth of additional information and insight available that can influence your customer experience strategy—if you know where to look. Successful media companies are casting a wide net when it comes to researching how their target demographic consumes content, including platforms they own and ones they don’t. For example, a media company can own the experience on its own website, mobile app, and social media pages, but it’s equally important to understand the other channels through which users seek related content, such as competitors’ sites and other social networks.
Understanding the many ways a user may interact with content, like the users themselves, requires a multifaceted and robust research practice. Exploratory, interview-style studies—either moderated or unmoderated—can reveal how users really discover and interact with content. Frequent exploratory user tests uncover the user’s complete process, from inspiration to action. Hearing a user explain and demonstrate the different sources they use to consume media is a helpful starting place for research. Additionally, to fully empathize and understand media consumers, successful media companies look to surveys, diary studies, and competitive studies to complement regular user testing. Surveys can be a great way to establish a baseline for what users find most valuable when it comes to content. They can also help identify key differentiating factors that keep users loyal. Once a baseline has been established, a diary study can be conducted to take a longitudinal view of how users are consuming content. Do they check the news on their smartphone as soon as they wake every day, or just on weekdays? Do they rely on mobile devices during the week and desktops and tablets on weekends? This expanded perspective gives valuable insight on how users are interacting with a media product over a period of time, providing a more holistic view of their experience and identifying areas for further focus, research, and optimization.
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