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Sunday, September 28 • 14:16 - 14:35
"Toward a Tyranny of Tweeters? The Institutionalization of Social TV Analytics as Market Information Regime"

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Background: Journalist and media critic Neal Gabler (2008) once famously decried the “tyranny of 18-49s” that governed decision-making in the American television industry.  His critique was directed at the disproportionate prioritization that individuals in that age bracket received from media buyers and television programmers.  This paper considers whether a similar dynamic is emerging in terms of the increasingly influential role that social media analytics – and thus, social media-active television viewers – are playing in the television industry, where the volume and valence of social media interactions related to television programs is becoming an important metric for assessing program success (Napoli, 2011). 

Objective: In conducting this analysis, this paper expands, and refines Anand and Peterson’s (2000) notion of market information regimes, which are the socially constructed mechanisms via which marketplace participants assess their performance as well as the performance of their competitors.  This paper examines the institutional dynamics surrounding social media data’s emerging role as a secondary market information regime in the audience marketplace.   

Method: Drawing upon institutional theory, this paper examines the process of institutionalization surrounding a new market information regime, seeking to explain the dynamics around if and how a new, alternative market information regime is integrated (or not integrated) into the marketplace.  The analysis draws from interviews with industry professionals, participant-observation at industry conferences and symposia, trade press reports, and industry white papers and presentations. 

Results: This analysis highlights the tensions that arise in relation to established versus aspiring market information regimes, and the substantial cognitive hurdles that must be overcome for the displacement of the established market information regime to take place.  It is argued that the barriers to displacement are particularly high for what are termed here currency regimes (those that serve as a currency in the marketplace), as opposed to other types of market information regimes delineated in this analysis, such as expenditure regimes (those that report on the distribution of consumer expenditures on the market) and quality assessment regimes (those that rank product or service providers on the basis of product/service quality or reputation).  Further, the presence of multiple, competing providers of a market information regime is identified as an impediment to institutionalization.  This analysis also illustrates the extent to which a marketplace’s willingness and ability to operate under both primary and secondary market information regimes if a function of the ambiguity and subjectivity inherent in the product around which the marketplace operates.

Conclusions: This study concludes that a marketplace that operates under multiple market information regimes is one in which a greater diversity of success criteria have been institutionalized, and thus is one in which a greater diversity of content types can be supported.  However, this study also concludes that a market information regime derived from social media activity threatens to replace existing forms of misrepresentation and under-representation in the audience marketplace with new forms that could similarly bias the dynamics of cultural production.

Anand, N., & Peterson, R.A. (2000). When market information constitutes fields: Sensemaking of markets in the commercial music field. Organization Science, 11, 270–284.

Gabler, N. 2003. The tyranny of 18–49: American culture held hostage. Norman Lear Center White Paper.

Napoli, P.M. (2011). Audience evolution: New technologies and the transformation of media audiences. New York: Columbia University Press.

Sunday September 28, 2014 14:16 - 14:35
TRS 1-149 Ted Rogers School of Management

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