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Reconnect with consumers and Stop the Adness!

http://www.newcommunicationmodel.org/

AP Press Release

Social engagement networks could enhance advertising effectiveness, study shows

MIAMI, Fla – Many news consumers feel bombarded by advertising but are more receptive to it if is presented in a trusted, interactive environment, a new study for The Associated Press concludes.

The study of advertising consumption among consumers in four U.S. cities was conducted by the ethnographic research company, Context-Based Research Group of Baltimore, and released today in conjunction with WeMedia Miami, a conference focused on transformative media models. AP participated in the study along with the Baltimore-based advertising agency, Carton Donofrio Partners.

The findings of the study, A New Model for Communication, closely follow the results of a study released in 2008 by Context and AP that focused on news consumption and demonstrated that people are experiencing news fatigue and have trouble connecting to more in-depth stories. Both studies were based on ethnographic research methods, which involve tracking and analyzing the behavior of individuals in their work and home environments. The new study followed 24 men and women, ages 18 to 55, in Atlanta, Kansas City, New York and San Francisco.

“We learned from these two studies that consumers in the digital age want to be engaged in a totally different way,” said Jim Kennedy, vice president and director of strategic planning for the AP. “Instead of one-way bombardment, they want a two-way conversation.”

The report includes case studies of initiatives from AP and Carton Donofrio that were designed to enhance audience engagement. The news agency has been experimenting with social media models that encourage interaction between news consumers and AP journalists, including a blog with embedded Twitter feed on Yahoo! News during the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings last summer and robust Facebook pages activated during the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen and the Winter Games in Vancouver. AP also now has a standing presence on both Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/APNews) and Twitter (@AP).

The advertising agency has separately launched an initiative, StoptheAdness.org, to inspire better communication between consumers and advertisers.

“Advertising simply isn’t working as well as it could because the social contract – the implicit agreement advertisers and consumers have established to support a productive exchange – has been violated,” said David Smith, executive creative director at Carton Donofrio Partners.

The ethnographic fieldwork for the study was conducted in the summer of 2009 as part of AP’s corporate strategic planning process. The results were analyzed by Context, Carton Donofrio and AP to reach a set of recommendations for news providers and advertisers.

“This study, when combined with the 2008 results, strongly suggests that the model for communication is in transition,” said Robbie Blinkoff, principal anthropologist for Context. “In these situations, there is an opportunity for something stronger to emerge.”

In the report, Blinkoff used the anthropological concept of “Communitas” to describe the transition. He called Communitas a time of egalitarian information sharing which can be harnessed to rebuild trust between information providers and consumers. He likened Communitas to the social networking phenomenon online, where consumers feel comfortable engaging with information among their friends and peer groups. Blinkoff said the phenomenon held lessons for all information providers as they work to transform their business models.

“You have to socialize the space before you can monetize it,” the anthropologist concluded.

The individuals who were studied for the report generally viewed advertising as interruptive, but their attitudes were more positive about information they could trust and share with their families and friends. The report recommended that media companies and advertisers give themselves a “Communitas test” to see how their strategies measure up in terms of providing honest and relevant information to consumers and creating opportunities for two-way conversations.

“The solution is not just to create more engaging content, but to create better environments for engaging with content,” Blinkoff said.

The full report is available for download at http://www.newcommunicationmodel.org/

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