I had the pleasure of attending the CMA’s event on connecting academia and industry in children’s media here in New York a little while ago. It was also the first big event that David Kleeman was at since he’s moved to New York- and he proved to be a wonderful host.
As someone who’s worked on both sides of the children’s media research/academia spectrum, I feel compelled to write about it here, and the whole night inspired me to do so.
Approaching this topic with an economic mindset, (versus research for the sake of finding out interesting things about the world around us- which is also a noble goal) - I honestly think that the most important thing to bridge the gap is to quantify the earnings potential that research can bring to a brand. Some of the top children’s shows are highly researched, and research seems like one of the best things a children’s media producer (especially in animation- filming real kids often helps bring content to a kid’s level naturally) can do to ensure that the brand is meeting the kids at their level, while earning decent revenue in the process.
Some shows are able to do this without research, but if you’re looking to wage your bets, a show with a research mandate is much more likely to provide hefty returns than not. Seeing that researchers are excellent with presentation and graphics, I wonder why there is not some sort of easy-to-read chart demonstrating such returns (if there is, let me know, and I’ll post here!)
People in the industry move fast. I’m taken by the Facebook slogan, “done is better than perfect” - to offer an analogy to the production side of the children’s media industry. When I switched to the research side, I had to realize that it’s completely the other way around (as it probably should be). Research, compared to the media industry, is slow. How can one bridge a gap when a company wants a one-word answer, while a researcher could offer a 200+ page answer?
The academics who succeed are the ones that can break research down into nuggets- realizing that people on the media side of things move fast, and may only have the time and bandwidth to understand the very most important big picture things (which likely have the highest payoff), and will utilize their own creative skills to integrate the suggestions into the content intrinsically. Successful “industry” academics understand that pictures and visual aids provide great support and understanding to people who work in a visual industry. They’re able to find fascination with their data, while providing the best distilled top line suggestions with a quick turnaround- easily proving their talents and use to producers - while clearing a path for other industry folks to see the benefit in research. Really, it’s about understanding need and scope- and being appropriate about it.
I crossed the path back to production in May and have enjoyed working in a fast-paced environment while being able to provide big picture research suggestions. I hope that one day we don’t see these two closely-linked industries as “divided” but rather have players approach both sectors somewhat fluidly, as they should if they’re planning to spend time in either (or both) sectors.