Knowing how to reach your target audience seems like an important piece of the marketing puzzle, right? I mean, what good is the perfect message if it falls on deaf ears… or no ears at all? 
It brings to mind that old riddle: If a marketing message falls in the woods, and there’s no one there to hear it, is it still marketing?
All joking aside, this silly version of the old “if a tree falls in the woods” conundrum points to a problem that’s been around since the first days of advertising—without the right medium for delivery, even the best marketing message will fail.
In 2006, Interact founder Pam Cox-Otto, Ph.D., set out to change all this. The result? Interact’s now-annual Media Preferences Survey. 

As she wrote in the 2008 survey report, “The idea was simple enough—help colleges market to their critical audiences by asking those audiences to what media they listen, watch and respond.”
In those first couple of years, Pam and her research team worked with colleges across the country and more than 34,000 students to conduct a landmark research study of the media preferences of two-year college students of all ages. Participating students were asked more than 200 questions and given a chance to win video iPod and an iPod Nano. Yeah, it’s been that long.
Since then, the media landscape has changed a little. OK. It’s changed to an extent no one would have imagined. Here’s Pam predicting some of those changes in the 2008-09 Media Preferences Survey Report: 
“Next year, we will add new questions on social networking that will delve into advertising, widgets, pokes, slams and lots of other things that sound goofy as I write them. But as goofy as they sound, behind them is a revolution in communication. The first shots were fired years ago. There is no turning back. So, sit back and enjoy what will be an exciting, if bumpy, ride.”
It’s amazing how right she was, considering that it was 2009. You know what else happened in 2009? Facebook announced that it had achieved a positive cash flow… for the first time.
As much as the world has changed since then, so has Media Prefs. Over the last 10+ years, Media Prefs has worked with almost 300 colleges and collected the viewing and listening habits of more than 500,000 community college students. And what were once static, .PDF reports and searchable CDs have evolved into fully interactive web portals that are customized for each college and that allow clients to filter national and local data into highly granular, custom reports and presentation-ready charts. 
In fact, making sure Media Prefs is ready for the future is a key component of an ongoing review process in which questions are refined, outdated references are removed, and new features are considered. 
One significant evolution over the years has been the addition of reporting features that allow colleges to extract data specific to the media preferences of their students. Most recently, this local reporting has evolved into the ability for not just colleges, but regional districts and consortia, to view and analyze data that applies to their region as a whole.

As the new Media Prefs survey season begins this Fall, it is hard not to reflect on how much technology and media have changed in the past decade. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the goal of Pam’s initial idea. As she writes in the 2009 report: 
“What if you asked thousands of people what media they consume? What if you could ask enough of them so that you could look at unique groups as well as large ones and see the patterns? That kind of data would make it easier to reach your target market, easier to talk to your community, and easier to tell the story of what you and your organization do. That’s one goal of this research. A tool to help those with critical messages tell their stories to critical audiences.”

“However, there is another goal,” continues Pam. “It’s to help those with fewer resources make smart communication decisions. Stop wasting money on things that don’t work or that are simple legacy messages. In these times no one can afford wasting money or time on things that don’t work. That is what this report is all about.”

The Fall Media Prefs survey season begins soon, and it’s not too late to join! 
Contact Jamie Wagner at or (608) 385-4844 today.

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By Published On: September 24, 2018Last Updated: April 4, 2022Categories: Blog ArticlesTags: , ,