It was interesting to watch the lecture by Rich Park in conjunction with Napoli chapter 3. The very first note I took regarding the reading says, “return path data” in reference to audience behavioral data. We’ve reached a point in the audience evolution where media makers not only have access to but must take action on the information they receive from viewers. When we stratify this observation against Professor Park’s lecture, we can see the similarities to the Samsung design process.
Professor Park described the old paradigm and the new. Samsung was a “fast follower.” As an company that heavily relied on investment in semiconductors to be competitive in the market, Samsung would copy products that had recently hit the market. Because of better manufacturing technology, Samsung could compete with better margins. They produced those same products less expensively. Park told an illustrative story about how a VCR he had purchased at a discount blinked 12:00 until the day he returned it.
The business model of technology companies around the world assumes that the user - through either their contract or directly - pays for their equipment. But, as the novelty of PCs, fitness trackers and the variety of cameras you have stashed in you drawer wears off, users are becoming more discerning. Because they know they can have it, they want the perfect product. Not only will it meet their needs but it will be beautiful. User experience experts call this effect the aesthetic usability effect (Lidwell, Universal Principles of Design). Products with better aesthetic quality are perceived as more usable.
Since the earliest days of broadcast radio and television, users were not required to pay for their content. Advertisers fully supported the distribution of this content because the content got them the eyeballs they were willing to pay for.
Samsung, in hiring thousands of designers, has opted to focus on user-centered design. They do a ton of research and begin designing products with multidisciplinary teams before bringing them to market. Professor Park specifically says that they can no longer develop products with gut instinct. Napoli has described a transition in the media industry. It can also no longer develop products from gut instinct.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, “return path data” is one way that media makers can pursue data to help develop marketable products (e.g. products that can be supported by advertising or sold directly to the viewer) — in the tech world this is called summative research. But there are a number of other research methods that media makers could leverage. This includes market research, user psychology and formative research.
Napoli has stated that viewers that are meaningfully engaged with the content are seemingly more engaged with the advertising.
Professor Park is describing a process that encourages engagement, not only to point-of-purchase but continued engagement with and loyalty to Samsung’s technology and software — with the advantage of a deep understanding of user needs and wants. This seems to match the model of engagement that was described by Napoli.
It seems, from Napoli’s perspective, that media makers are emphasizing audience measurement after the idea has been established (Napoli describes that early advertising is sometimes used to vet ideas, but the idea has to exist to advertise something). It’s the advertisers that are pushing for accountability and measurement, which is akin to Samsung’s process of cutting margins on already popular products.
Instead, media makers should take a page from companies like Apple, Google and Samsung, and push design to the start of the process. Instead of churning out VCRs at reduced margin or slapping set-top boxes on the problem, media makers could be using research to design an experience that viewers actually want.