Using Market Research as the Basis for Successful Content Product Decisions

Using Market Research as the Basis for Successful Content Product Decisions

Judith Durgin Pilla (Independent Research Analyst, USA) and Louis Pilla (Publishing Executive, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8580-2.ch009
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Abstract

For publishers and content providers, basing content decisions on one's own perception of what users need can be fraught with peril. Adopting an “outside-in” approach to product development – in which customer needs, not internal desires of the organization, drive product development – leads to the greatest chances for success. When it comes to understanding the audience, content providers and product teams have a variety of methodological approaches from which they can choose. These methods fall into two overarching approaches: qualitative and quantitative research. This chapter provides descriptions of several qualitative and quantitative research approaches that are frequently used to inform publishing business decisions. The authors discuss the importance of researching a target audience and present methods to discover their needs. Through two case studies, they provide an example of how research methods are employed in real-world situations.
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Introduction

All I know about getting out a magazine is to print what you think is good (or as near to your standard as you can get) and let nature take its course: if enough readers think as you do, you’re a success, if not you’re a failure. (Kunkel, 2001, p. 216)

So said Harold Ross, the esteemed founding editor of The New Yorker magazine, in a letter to the editor of the publication Current Biography dated June 23, 1943.

Closer to the present day, when asked what market research Apple did for the introduction of the first Macintosh computer, Apple founder Steve Jobs replied, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”(Isaacson, 2011, p. 170). In these cases, the insights and intuition of these leaders resulted in enormous success. With Mr. Ross, his taste led to a publication that has survived for almost 90 years – The New Yorker, launched in February 1925. Apple’s Macintosh, launched in 1984, continues to be successful some 30 years on.

While such genius can occur in any age, few content providers or product leaders can rely on their internal guidance mechanisms to provide such success. Even if an editor or product leader has toiled in an industry for decades, counting on one’s own sense of what will delight an audience is a risky proposition. That is because the creator of the content is typically not an expert in the domain being covered, which is why qualitative and quantitative research needs to play such critical roles in content product design and development.

In this chapter, the authors discuss the importance of researching a target audience to inform publishing business decisions. They present specific research methods, as applied in a business setting, to discover audience needs. Through two case studies, they provide an example of how research methods are employed in real-world situations.

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Background

Those who would build new products face challenging odds. According to one eye-opening study, out of seven new product ideas, only one succeeds (Cooper, 2001, pp. 10-11). Among the reasons for product failure, poor market research sits at the top of the list. A study from The Conference Board finds that inadequate research is the number-one cause of failure. Other reasons included technical problems, insufficient marketing effort, and poor timing.

The concept of the “market-driven firm” sets out to prevent such problems. In a “market-driven” organization, “all decisions start with the customer and the anticipated opportunities for advantage. The entire organization then follows through to insist on providing superior quality and service on the customer’s own terms” (Day, 1999, p. 359).

A structured framework for developing products based on understanding the needs of audiences and customers is required to succeed in delivering well-targeted content. Adopting an “outside-in” approach to content product development, where customer needs, not the internal desires of the organization, drive product development, leads to the greatest chances for success. This framework offers product managers, marketers, and others specific techniques to discover market problems and to craft products to meet those needs. There are highly regarded industry methodologies such as Pragmatic Marketing (see www.pragmaticmarketing.com) that provide guidance in establishing such a framework. If research is key to success, a content provider needs to understand the kinds of research available and the core value those techniques provide.

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