Product & Growth Tips

The metrics that matter to media

Christopher Gillespie

Like a ship caught in a storm, the media and entertainment industry is a juggernaut adrift. Channels, devices, and audiences are all rapidly fragmenting and product and analytics teams are left wondering how to track it all. Which metrics should they pay attention to? What benchmarks matter? What are the “bright spots” in a company’s data that will ultimately help the business stay on due course?

Mixpanel sat down with Blandon Casenave, the SVP of Digital Measurement Strategy at NBC Universal, to get his take.

Documentation and transparency drive loyalty

There was once a time when media companies were paid if someone simply glanced at a periodical. That, Blandon explained, is the old world. The new world is much more advanced and measuring performance presents more than just technical challenges.

Companies often sacrifice their integrity for the allure of profit. But as Facebook’s present crisis demonstrates, a lack of discipline can eventually catch up to a brand. Decades of moving fast and breaking things can end in a moment of reckoning, a hefty bill, a congressional inquiry, and as Fast Company reported, a cottage industry for stock photos of your CEO looking pensive.

Far better to be accountable from the beginning. For Blandon, being accountable has always meant documentation plus transparency. Documenting everything helps teams earn the trust of people– both inside and outside their organization. It can help media companies avoid running into boom-and-bust cycles like the ones tech startups saw in the early 2000’s when they were overvalued based on misleading view counts.

A good analytics partner can help, making it possible to identify and measure the metrics that actually matter.

The metrics of media

In 2017, Mixpanel produced a Product Benchmarks report that found average and elite performance for products in four industries: financial services, media & entertainment, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and e-commerce & retail. By aggregating 1.3 billion unique users’ actions and analyzing everything from usage growth to retention rates to conversion rates to which days of the week people are most active, we were able to provide a rough answer to that eternal business question: “How well should we be doing?”

By drilling down specifically on media & entertainment products in a forthcoming report, we will offer more targeted, actionable information for operators in that space. We shared some of our data with Blandon and he shared his thoughts.

For retention, mobile apps seem to have a 3x advantage over desktop and the mobile web. According to Blandon, that’s because when someone downloads a mobile app, they’re giving the app’s creators real estate. If a customer commits in that way, they become a very different consumer, and they’re much more likely to return.

Mobile apps also dominated median session length, but with a twist: For the 90th percentile of performers, desktop had a serious advantage. Blandon explained this as a factor of “the lean-back experience.” For media users, screen size plays a big role. The median measurement includes lots of poorer quality experiences and users who abandon quickly, which drags down the numbers. But for the premium content providers and top-performing media brands, people want to sit down and consume on the big screen.

The fact that the 90th percentile performers diverge markedly from median performers also highlights the fact that while measurements of the industry writ large are important, it’s far more important to segment one’s own audience. According to Blandon, this is the only way teams will discover “bright spots.”

Shining a light on user success

Across the entire media landscape, companies may appear to be in measurement crisis. But as Blandon pointed out, segmentation can tell a different story. Almost all companies still have at least one segment of their customers for whom everything is going right. They are very loyal, find plenty of value, and evangelize the product. That audience is a “bright spot.”

To adapt to today’s media environment, teams must drill down into those “bright spots” to find out who those people are, what makes them so happy, and then replicate that success across segments.

How does a greater need to focus on segments change for the media and entertainment industry going forward? It suggests the fragmentation of channels, devices, and audiences is a challenge that brands can overcome with the right metrics and the tools to measure them.

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