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Exploring Diversity in Audience Segmentation at the 2018 Multicultural TV Summit

April 16th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler

In this day and age, it’s vital that the TV industry aim for inclusive representation in age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in media content and advertising in audience segmentation, as well as a more nuanced look at who we are in all our complexities.

This need for diversity was a main takeaway from the 2018 Multicultural TV Summit in New York, where panelists from the TV industry spoke about advancing multicultural content, viewpoints, and talent. Joiava Philpott, vice president of regulatory affairs at Cox Communications, noted that while progress has been made, more effort is needed to “achieve greater diversity on our screens.”

Going Beyond the Current Approach to Audience Segmentation

How does a network achieve greater multicultural representation when its audience segments may not be so diverse? Juan Williams, co-host of The Five on Fox News, said we’re in a “moment of tremendous demo[graphic] change in the U.S. and in our media.” With a primetime lineup that’s right of center, he asked, “How do you tell stories that penetrate all of the market segments?”

“Even if you are in an older white male segment, you want to be aware of what other people are saying,” he said. He suggested the key might be to “invite an awareness” in news reporting to capture the spectrum of viewpoints and better understand the many perspectives of the story—because it’s “important to hear the other side.”

Going Beyond Simplicity in News Reporting

Ramon Escobar, vice president of diversity and inclusion at CNN Worldwide, explained that TV news has been restricted by a “two-box” mentality. “The danger of two-box is that there are only two sides to the story,” he said. Escobar is “gay, Hispanic, and from Arkansas,” and who he is and where he’s from shapes how he sees the world.

He said he understands different viewpoints around debates like gun rights or the separation of church and state, and that television should get away from simplistic approaches to news reporting. “Embrace complexity. Most times it’s not black-and-white. You can be a Democrat and vote for Trump, and you can be an Independent and protectionist at the same time,” he concluded.

Going Beyond Current Technology

Vanessa Ogle, founder and CEO of Enseo, spoke about the technology advancements that will enable viewers to more easily discover a range of content. Using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to discover data will lead to better program recommendation, she said. “We’re seeing advancements in this area, and it’s moving faster and faster, with a momentum that we haven’t seen in the last twenty years.”

Joseph Lawson, who works in content strategy and acquisition at Verizon, concurred: “What’s in the market now will look like Pong in the future,” with the advancements in artificial intelligence. “The level of customer satisfaction will be much higher,” he noted, and we’ll be able to “expose more viewers to multicultural programming.”

Television stations interested in expanding their multicultural outreach can take a several-pronged approach. They can go beyond the demographic target of their audiences, go beyond the two-box approach in news reporting, and go beyond their current range of technology. Minorities will soon be the majority in the U.S., as the Baltimore Sun noted, and those media companies that address diversity now will reap the benefits of a more inclusive audience both now and later.

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