Markets Focus: Superconnected

Markets Focus-Superconnected-Nat Geo MusicHyperactive early adopters plug into Web campaigns

In the media business, we sometimes take the early adopters for granted. We see them as a given, a stepping stone to mainstream adoption of a new technology, show or service. But in the book Click, due from Hyperion in September, author Bill Tancer delves into the absolutely critical role that early adopters play. They're not just the first stage in the adoption of a product; they're instrumental in pushing that product into the mainstream. "The Early Adopter has the eyes and ears of the subsequent adoption segments and the power to influence what becomes a success in the marketplace," Tancer writes. That's why marketers shouldn't underestimate the sway of this group. Market research firm Marquest Media & Entertainment Research recently released a study on the habits of early adopters when it comes to new media, technology and advanced television consumption. The insight into the new media habits of this consumer segment will likely be valuable for media companies, tech firms, and cable and satellite operators that want to reach the early adopters of new media services. But marketers who develop a keener understanding of early adopters will have a better chance of reaching not only that segment but also the mainstream, as the activity of early adopters carries over.

In the Marquest study, early adopters of new media are dubbed "SuperTrons." The report, published in late June, is the second such study from Marquest - the first was released in late 2007 and distributed to media companies and networks including National Geographic Channel, MTV Networks, ABC Television, Cablevision and others.

SuperTrons are new enthusiasts for technology, says Paul Rule, president of Marquest. He found that about 15 percent of the United States' population fits into the SuperTron segment. That's a slight increase from 12 percent in last year's inaugural report. "Fifteen percent of households account for an overwhelming share of new media acceptance and purchase," Rule says. "Realize that it's going to be a relatively small proportion of households that are going to be buying what you are selling."

But the competition is targeting them, too, so get in early. Remember the risk: This group could reach a saturation point with new media services. That's another reason why time is of the essence for marketers making a new media pitch to SuperTrons.
They also could get tapped out. "They are the single most important group from the standpoint of marketing, but my concern is there is only so much money," Rule says. These homes do have higher incomes and spend more, but their resources aren't infinite. "They love new media but only have so much money to spend. You need to get there first because there won't be money left in their budgets. The earlier, the better - and you reach them through using the media to which they are likely to be exposed, like the Internet, VOD and various mobile applications."
In this year's study, Marquest surveyed 945 advanced-services households. Those homes were defined as households that have one of these three services: broadband, digital cable or a digital video recorder. About 60 percent of homes in the United States meet that criteria. With that group as the foundation for the study, Marquest set out to find a subset of people in advanced-services homes who have the greatest interest in new media. Those are the SuperTrons. To qualify, a home needed to have two or more of the following: digital video recorder, mobile phone that displays video, equipment to route Internet video to the TV set, or satellite radio.

In its overall advanced-services panel, 25 percent (or 232 of the 945 homes) qualified as SuperTrons.

But percentages tell only a fraction of the story. Marketers want to know who they are. Not surprisingly, SuperTrons skew younger and are more likely to be male. They also are more affluent and more likely to have annual incomes above $50,000.

Rule also found that they watch most of their TV on a time-shifted basis, use Web video frequently and are 14 times more likely to have the capability to deliver their Web video to the TV set. They are also six times more likely to have a mobile phone that can play video, and are 10 times more likely to subscribe to such a service on their mobile phones.

Specifically, SuperTrons view video on a linear basis only 35 percent of the time, whereas nonTrons watch live video 57 percent of the time. SuperTrons are also more interested in on-demand applications and services - 73 percent compared to 52 percent.

SuperTrons also have a broader taste palette when it comes to on-demand content and like to watch content ranging from full episodes of TV shows to sportscasts to news clips to movie trailers to video podcasts to music videos.
National Geographic Channel uses the Marquest study of heavy new media users to better understand what drives early behavior in nascent markets, says Brad Dancer, senior vice president of digital media and research at the cable network. "Short term, understanding how to program to today's audience for the next month, quarter, year can help us increase usage across VOD, online and other platforms," he says. "A great example is Nat Geo Music. In part, we saw a trend for original programming, music, and a heavy male target among early adopters, so we launched Nat Geo Music on VOD this past April to see how we could attract more of that target and use content that already exists here in the channel."

The behavior of such early users can help media companies and marketers get a leg up. Click author Tancer, who is also global head of research at Hitwise, an online audience measurement company, said in an interview, "What we suggest our clients do is look toward anything out there in their competitive set that is similar, and understand the psychographics of people who are using the competitive substitute, and as they launch something, they can understand who they are getting traction with." By understanding the demographics and psychographics, a marketer can turn to data on what those groups are doing now online - what shopping, lifestyle or news sites they visit. "They can specifically target that group and market to them and get as many early adopters [as they can], because the early adopters are the ones that help get the word out."

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