Much existing research into interactive media and its potential remains fragmented and confusing, believes Professor Patrick Barwise, director of the London Business School’s Centre for Marketing. Which is why the LBS this month launches a major research study into the potential of interactive media in the home.
The three-year study is part of Media2020, a new initiative, funded by the Markle Foundation in New York and a 54-strong “consortium” of UK companies including Abbey National, Bass, Camelot, Heinz, Mazda, P&O, Sainsbury and Unilever, not to mention assorted advertising agencies and media owners. “Consortium members” have been recruited over the past two months – invited to contribute just 5,000 a year to participate in progress meetings, seminars and even associated research.
The aim is to establish authoritative research on a comprehensive scale, uniting existing findings and conducting original research where there is a need. “Until a year ago I must confess I was cautious about the whole area,” Professor Barwise concedes. “But we now have the resources to conduct a study of genuine value. There is undoubtedly a gap in the market: making sense of the masses of claims and counter-claims that daily cross my desk.”
At Media 2020′ s core is the Markle Study. LBS has so far attracted funding for 14 months; Barwise is confident this can be extended to cover three years. The initiative will address which interactive media and applications will achieve significant domestic penetration, how – and how much – these are likely to be used.
The study will focus on six key areas: entertainment (TV, video, games); person-to-person communications (voice, text, videophone); electronic home shopping and banking; information publishing; marketing communications; and telecommuting (including education).
Associated projects will assess the role of the Internet as an advertising medium and market and the evolution of “Cyberfirms” – which use interactive media as their main method of trading and communication. In return for their support, consortium members get details of findings as the research goes along and can attend seminars and workshops. A decision has yet to be taken on how widely to publish all findings, however, the longer-term aim is to model future trends formally in publications and reports.
“It is intentionally a big consortium which will meet three times a year,” Professor Barwise explains. “Our aim is not to control it but work with it and encourage members to work with each other.” He adds he is still looking to recruit more technically-based companies and retailers to participate. And, surprisingly, no electronic companies have yet signed up.
Although UK-originated, Media2020 will inevitably keep its eye on developments in the States. “To understand these new markets you must understand the US,” Barwise says. But it seems the most comprehensive attempt yet to establish a framework for future UK interactive media strategies and, ultimately, Government policy. Even before “consortium members” prepare for their first meeting on January 24, Professor Barwise is eager to ensure Media2020 runs to the end of the decade, and beyond.