Prime Time Is All The Time

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The New York Times ran an article today titled. In the Age of TiVo and Web Video, What Is Prime Time?, by Brian Stelter. I’m sure it’s a good read, and I will get to it, but it’s the title of this article that really inspired this Blog posting. The mass media is challenged to find new audience or explain where their dwindling numbers are going. It’s easy enough to postulate that they’re going online or simply multi-platforming, but I’m not buying it. I’m beginning to wonder if they were ever really there to begin with?

I know, it’s a provocative thought, but think about how Digital Marketing is maturing, and yet there’s still not enough – in total percentage of ad spend – going to the online segment. My guess is that Marketers still don’t feel like they’re getting through to the major masses online. Well, let me ask you this: do you know anyone who does not go online?

I don’t.

So, this begs the question: if everyone we know is online, why don’t Marketers feel like they are hitting everybody when they advertise online?

The other promise of online is metrics. We know (in a fairly exact way) how many people are coming through, where they are going, what they’re clicking on, for how long, what they’re searching for, and, sometimes, why they’re doing it. That’s some pretty robust analytics. How can traditional media (like TV) provide those metrics?

They can’t.

At best, they’re guesstimating. Well, my guess is that, more often than not, it’s easier to get high on the whiff of your own gas, than to look at the other channels and try to figure out where your Consumers really are (and what they’re doing).

The disruptive nature of technology has also forced the thoughts that Stetler asks in his New York Times article. "The missing six million viewers who were watching prime television last May and have disappeared this year are still watching, but on their own terms."

It’s getting harder and harder for media to hide behind numbers that are self-audited. It might be getting even harder to put value on the notion of prime time, as the world shifts beneath their feet. Prime Time is really all about the Consumer choosing when (and what) they watch. This could be at any given time of the day, or any given day of the week.

I think the Web lives an always Prime Time model. I think older channels, like television, still think they control what is Prime Time.


  1. Great post Mitch. I stumble on this quote the other day and thought it may be interesting to you.
    “The TV producer Mark Burnett terms 9 a.m til 6 p.m the new prime time because that’s when people are at work with their computers in front of them”
    I couldn’t agree more. Even Latin America has a rapidly growing internet penetration. In Venezuela, approximately 40% of the population is connected, most of them from the lower income portions of the society, mainly through cyber coffees. That is something to have in mind when you want to reach people.
    Thanks for your great post.
    Regards from Caracas.

  2. Mitch,
    You scare people when you talk about mass media/mass marketing vs. social networking and online opportunities.
    But you knew that already 😉
    This is an issue that I dub “what will make me sleep at night”.
    If the focus group of 11 people or the ratings demo cell of 54 people says we’re #1, that’s good enough.
    No it’s not.
    Radio is measured by asking less than 1% of 1% of the potential “audience� what they like and want. Television asks the same people for longer periods of time.
    As you’ve pointed out, online stats may be smaller …but they’re real!
    That’s why research, focus groups, and polls remain popular. That’s why music charts from one city influence media music choices in another. That’s why once “Survivorâ€? caught on, everyone with a camcorder and a few thousand bucks decided they were a television producer.
    “Fish where the fish” are has become a dicey proposition. As you point out, we’re not sure if they were there in the first place.
    You’ll need to remember the laggards aren’t usually traveling near your shoulder blade. Let’s keep any eye open for senior media management types on Twitter and Facebook.
    Keep leading the charge, Mitch and keep asking those tough but necessary questions.

  3. I think that Prime Time has gone the way of the long tail — along with everything else in the digital age.
    If anything, digital media has liberated the consumer. We no long have to be at a certain place at a certain time to consumer the media we love; rather, we have it on demand.
    The real underlying implication of this being, of course, that consumers can discover some media and become devout followers of it a long time after its premiere or season.

  4. I think that sometimes the largest flaws to our logic is assuming that the group of people that we know are representative of the general population.
    “If everyone we know is online, why don’t Marketers feel like they are hitting everybody when they advertise online?”
    I think that everyone that we know is probably a little more hooked up than the average American. They’re probably less entrenched in a TV viewing habit 10 years in the making.

  5. Mitch:
    Great post.
    I think that part of the problem may be many companies trying to apply traditional marketing practices to the online world.
    As anyone who reads this blog knows, digital marketing is a different mindset. Marketers that rely on traditional methods may feel they are reaching the audience they need because it’s what they’ve always done and it’s seemed to work.
    They try to translate that to the digital world and something gets lost. They don’t feel that they are reaching people because now they find out that maybe their message/stance/opinion isn’t connecting with people they way they thought. Then, they assume that it’s a problem with the new tool…not their thinking.
    Substandard messages used to be able to hide in the tv/radio world because you never REALLY knew who was paying attention. Now, they know who’s paying attention and it’s far fewer people than they thought.
    I’m realizing more and more that to stand out online you really have to do something different. It really raises the bar for marketers and companies in general and it makes things more difficult. I also think it will make things better in the long run.

  6. hey mitch
    we, the audience have so much control online and we have gotten smarter. we are getting better and faster at avoiding anything that even smells like an online ad. we are bombarded endlessly with noise and will only pay attention to something that is really innovative, or is content we want. advertisers have to figure out how to give us something of value or entertain our asses off.

  7. Mitch,
    Good post for the most part, but I think we need to be careful in our assumptions about how people “live” online. Personally, I know many people who, while they use email and go online to do specific tasks, don’t take it any further than that. You would have a hard time reaching these people with online media.

  8. Great quote from the head of product development at TELUS:
    “Sure my son still watches prime time TV. Only problem is that he doesn’t watch it in prime time and he doesn’t watch it on his TV”

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