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WESTMINSTER VISITS EMMA – Paul Dwyer reports from Paris

February 20, 2009

EMMA is the very British sounding acronym for the very European Media Management Association.

EMMA brings together media economists, management scholars and communications academics and met last weekend in the suitably grand surroundings of Paris’s ESC-EAP Business School, for the annual conference.

It quickly became clear that the title of the conference – Media After The Mass – had a not-too-subtextual subtext. The implication (even the assumption) is that ‘after the mass’ the media are in trouble, and that the ideas and methods of business and management are a large part of the solution.

In his plenary presentation, Westminster’s Director of Research, Dr. Peter Goodwin gave some context to the current debate about what will happen to media “after the mass”? As he made clear, worries about the fragmentation of the mass audience and the future of mass media have now been around for some two decades. Interestingly too, predictions that mass media will be replaced by some form of converged global communications network clearly predate the world wide web.

Peter was followed, over the next two days, by an impressive number of academics bringing a wide range of research techniques to bear on this central question. Together they provided what might appropriately be termed an audit of what academic research has made of the business of running the media.

The most common theme was the focus on practice. The contributors all seemed agreed on the view that media management is about looking at how the media work from the (still relatively novel) perspective of business and management, rather than journalism, communication or cultural studies. Many seem to agree that their research should therefore attempt to be relevant to the concerns of policy makers and practitioners.

If media are in trouble after the fragmentation of mass audiences then the problems facing public service media are even more acute. Charles Brown, Westminster’s head of media management chaired a session looking at how European broadcasters and policy makers are experimenting with new forms of funding, co-production, branding and subsidy to support the creation of public service content.

But if one contribution summed up both the significance and the difficulty of using management research to provide solutions to the problems of media organisations, it was the presentation by Mart Ots from Jonkoping International Business School which won the prize for best conference paper.

His research took a classic management consultant’s exhortation – that success in business results from “providing value to customers” – and attempted to put it to empirical test. By observing meetings between the customers of one media organization he was able to portray widely differing interpretations of the value they provide. On the one hand, the “end consumer”, a retail advertiser, wanted a range of qualitative benefits from advertising – such as positioning their brand name in the appropriate cultural context. On the other hand the media buying agency (with whom the media organisation had closest and most frequent contact) was driven almost entirely by quantitative measures – the greatest rating points for the lowest price. The question which emerges is: if a media organisation which wants to provide “value” to determine who its customers are and what they actually value?

If the conference started with the question “what should the media do after the end of mass audiences?”  it ended not with the management consultants’ answer “deliver value to your customers” but with the academic’s supplementary question “who are the customers and what do they value?”

Not a bad question, but it’ll need to sound a bit catchier to be the title of next year’s conference!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Proud Mary Entertainment permalink
    September 7, 2009 1:59 am

    New here. Thanks

    Mary Aloe
    Proud Mary Entertainment

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