Media Insights Q&A With Carat's Billie Gold

Billie Gold, VP of Research and Programming at Carat, has a unique perspective on the media landscape. After entering the industry at MTV in the early days of cable, she followed a path that led her through the agency world. In my interview with her, Billie talks about how she got into the media business, how agency research differs from network research, the future of multitasking, the upfront, and how the media marketplace will change based on the new 2010 census figures. Billie also offers some perspective on set-top-box data, social media, cross platform and what makes a network program valuable.

Below is a short excerpt of the interview, which can be viewed here:

CW: Billie, how important is social media?

BG: I am going to buck the trend that says that social media is vitally important. Social media has always existed but not in the form that it is in now.



We used to joke about “watercooler talk.” Well, that is a form of social media. If people in an office have watched a show and they talk about it, other people will get curious about that show and sample it. If they like what they see, they will in turn tell other people. I think that social media can help get sampling for a show, but eventually the show itself has to sell itself.

Interestingly, we have looked at many companies that measure social media, and if you ask them at the beginning of a television season which shows will succeed based on blogs or tweets, which shows will be the big hits, 70% of the time they predict incorrectly.

Look, some shows we know are going to be hits, like you know that the “X-Factor” was going to be a hit. Or if a show is cradled between or is spun off from a big show, the chances are it will also be a hit. But in many instances, the forecasters are wrong. There are many times where you don’t know or can’t count on social media to be predictive. Commenting and sampling alone is no guarantee that the show is going to be a winner.

CW: How does a network draw your attention from an agency perspective?

BG: If a cable network comes up with some original programming (and it doesn’t have to be a break out show like “Queer Eye” or “The Walking Dead”) it will draw our attention. I will use “Mad Men” as an example. Believe it or not, it is not that highly rated. It won three Emmys in a row but it is not a high rated show. And yet it struck a chord, especially with me because I am in the advertising business. Soon “Mad Men” was on the cover of every magazine. It only draws about 3 million viewers a week but it grabbed attention.

So a program doesn’t have to be a blow-out hit for it to draw attention to the network with the agencies. A&E and History have rolled out a series of uber-male-oriented shows as has Discovery. These programs attract the hard to find male viewers who tend to be lighter viewers of television than females. So these types of shows are helping to grow these networks and at the same time are helping these networks deliver valuable audiences for advertisers.

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