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» AnimationNation   » General Discussion   » old vs. new thinking about demographics

   
Author Topic: old vs. new thinking about demographics
Easy Zee
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Over the past few years I have pitched several projects. When it comes time for the broadcasters and networks to decide which productions to green light, I have been rejected every time thus far. And it’s always the same excuse…demographics.
I can not express the frustration I have toward this outdated, archaic way of thinking. Not that demographics have to be as limiting as they are. But the current thinking of demographics is all wrong. Currently, the thinking is to categorize by gender and age, for example ‘boys 8 to 10’ or ‘girls 10 to 12’ or’ boys 6 to8’. This is the old way of categorizing demographics, and it is not benefiting anyone in animation.
The new way of thinking about demographics is called “tribal” demographics. And nobody at the networks and broadcasters is thinking tribal demographics yet. If they were, we would see a broader range of shows, and less shows would be rejected because they do not fit in the old demographics.
With “tribal” demographics, you do not just look at age and gender. You look at a specific commonality a group may have. For example; a 19 year old girl that is having her first baby, has more in common with a 39 year old woman who is also having a baby for the first time, than she has in common with other 19 year olds.
Another example; a 12 year old gamer that is heavily into World Of Warcraft, has more in common with a 40 year Warcraft gamer, than he does other 12 year olds that do not play video games.
You get the idea; look more specifically at the life styles and the things different groups are into. Not age and gender. Tribal demographics is quite new, and everywhere it has been implemented, it has been shown to be far more successful than the old age/gender demographics. So how do we get this thinking exposed to animation networks?
My latest pitch was rejected because it fell between 2 demographics. The network said they wanted a show to air from 6 to 7 PM. Had they been thinking tribal demographics this would not have been a problem. If you pitch a show about dogs, tribal demographics will show that there are a lot of people into dogs. If you pitch a show that takes place in high school, tribal demographics show that almost everyone can relate to a high school show because everyone has or will experience high school.
You can see how this would benefit creators. Besides, are all boys 6 to 8 into the exact same stuff? The answer is “no.” Are all girls 9 to 12 into the same stuff? Again, “no.”

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Metsys
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Tribal demographics is really hard/impractical to implement on a network because you have only a few channels with wide coverage, so of course they will pick shows that have mass appeal to just age, gender, and sometimes genre or media like animation for example, but as we've seen with Cartoon Network even that's changing, now that they've started to drop animation.

Imagine having a 1-hour block on a major network that only appeals to a small audience. Most people would turn it off which the networks can't afford. Maybe you could do it on broadcast if you have thousands of different channels, one for each tribe, but I don't know of many cable or satellite companies that let you cherry-pick individual channels that you want; you buy them in packs.

So not looking into tribe demographics on networks makes a lot of sense. For a niche/tribe audience it's better to have those shows done online. The trick is getting funding, exposure to those tribes, and getting money from those tribes.

Just curious, which two demographics did they say your concept fell under?

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SNAKEBITE
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I agree, Zee. I don't think tribe is niche at all. I think tribe covers more ground. Demographic data is old. What I see when i go outside is hybrid mentality. Everyone is remixing everything, so their sense and sensibility is way different then even 5 years ago. Besides, demographics just jam all kinds of different people in one box.

Not to mention these days I see a lot of re runs on prime time slots that could be easily used for new programming...but I guess these guys new ideas aren't as good as their old ones.lol

I think cool ideas will sell to the market.Once we get these old gate keepers out of the way, the public will start to see more variety.

There's no reason why many different ages can't enjoy the same program. I know the kids in my life have very sophisticated tastes at times.

But I agree with Metsys in the sense that you're wasting your time trying to get dinosaurs to get evolution of thought.

There's all kinds of new ways to be seen. Maybe we need to stop pitching to these old paradigms. maybe we need to focus on just the venture capitol to become their competition. I KNOW its all easier said then done, but it's just as easy as trying to deal with these dinosaurs. I'm sorry, but there is just a bunch of nothing on TV, and lots of dead air time with reruns and for the love of some washed out hollywood douche bag type shows...I'm insulted really.

but if it is niche, then go find it. you can make a living pleasing a niche. the masses act like asses anyways.

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Charles
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This is a great topic.

Last September I attended a special event sponsored by Animation Magazine. It was called "How to Create a Winning Animation Pitch". I learned a lot from this. The panelists were mostly network people who one would go to or through as far as pitching is concerned.

Among what I learned... they're human beings who seem to be very nice people, they enjoy what they do, they're enthusiastic about it, they like animation, and they seem like the kind of people any of us would like to work with.

I also learned that they do indeed have a demographic that they are committed to. And if we want to entertain a chance of if getting something picked up for development, our chances improve greatly by tailoring our concepts to what they're looking for.

Something else I learned, is that they are all watching the Web for new content, and if they like what they see, and if they think it'll work for them, things could happen that way.

They go with about 3% of what is pitched to them for development, and out of this pool, they'll cut it down even further. So one's chances of having their property picked up by a network are remote to begin with.

My advice would be don't let it get ya down or discourage you too much if you're not getting bites from casting your line that way. If you're really intent on scoring, consider playing their game. Learn what it is they're looking for and come up with something that they'll be open to. Don't try and force them to go with something different, chances are it won't work.

The Internet is a the perfect venue for unique demographics, so take advantage of this medium. You're better off creating for your own demographic then not creating at all.

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tstevens
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You have to remmeber that advertisers need demographics to know who to sell to and where to put there money. Without the advertisers the system either has to go to a subscriber base or it becomes free. One of the cool things about watching TV on the web is that it shouldn't be too long before the shows you watch (on say you tube or Hulu) will be able to recognize your computer and your likes and start tailoring the advertising to you. At that point the demographic should become less important because advertisers will be paired with entertainment in real time. Google is already planning on connecting web based advertisers with websites in this same way. The computer makes the decision as to how things get paired. However to do this consumers will have to give up quite a bit of personal information.

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Metsys
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In which case be careful about what you search for and visit on the web. Otherwise you can get some very interesting ads while watching TV with the family. [Smile]

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ColorInAble
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I gotta say, the internet is where these whole niche markeys have an avenue.

I remember in 1983 when my video teacher said "All In The Family" was one of the greatest TV shows ever, because no matter how much we felt Mike & Gloria were right, they had written the show so those who weren't as "Enlightened" would side with Archie Bunker...

And as I rewatch some of those episodes, I realize how much he was right...

You know, in 1976 Archie felt Regan would make a great president...

In 1980 life followed art...

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Skynet
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This may go slightly off topic, but I know I can't stand it when companies start telling me what I would like. Like on netflix they tell you how many stars you would give to movies that are supposedly similar to movies you have already watched. The problem is that they are wrong 99% of the time. It's actually amazing how far off they are all the time. It is so bad that I started rating movies the opposite from what I really thought to see if it would get better. Point is, it doesn't matter because it wont work.

There's no way to generalize people because like you say it is not age that makes people have similar tastes. People of all ages can be different or similar in many ways, and there is no realistic way to know what groups of people will like at a certain age.

Also, with advertising. If you order stuff from amazon they start suggesting what you like and again they are way off 99% of the time. There are many reasons why I could buy something. How do they know why I bought something or who I bought it for? It gets annoying when anyone thinks they know what you will want, but at the same time there are ways on amazon that help you find other things you might like.

Anyway, media should simply be produced and available and if you want to buy it or you want to watch it, you will. With the way the internet is changing the way we listen to and view media maybe demographics will eventually fade, but it can take a long time for traditions and paradigms to release their hold on people. Usually the traditions and paradigms will start to fade or change when the groups of people that believe them are no longer around to enforce them.

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ColorInAble
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I know the netflix recomendations are sort of crazy, and I hate to be so predictable, but at amazon, I find they are pretty on target after a while.

I bought a few cd's in one genre I like, and the system learned. Then I was shopping another genre, and the system learned that I liked that too.

I was a college DJ in the 80's, and the system at amazon knew to link me up with the less well known stuff from the genres I like.

I did get tired of it recommending cd's I already have, so one day I went through amazons recomendations for me and told it what I owned and what I wasn't interested in. I went through the first 750 recomendations or so, and since then amazon has recommended and allerted me to new and released music with frightening accuracy. At least in music, amazons recomendations are pretty dead on from my experience.

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Charles
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Remember what it was like before the Internet? With the Web, at least your properties have a fighting chance. There's a way to showcase yourself and build your own demographic regardless of the parameters associated with the traditional gatekeepers.

Best of all, chances are the gatekeepers will respond more positively to you this way.

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dermot
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JUDGEMENT IS LACKING

remember Mary Tyler Moore....or All in the Family ?....2 shows that were soundly rejected by focus groups ?

Fred Silverman said yes to them both regardless of consequences.

Dave Hendin ( retired from United Features Syndicate ) said it well : " you can't spend money to make a great comic strip ; you have to find the right person to make a great comic strip "

Peanuts was rejected at all but one syndicate.....as was Garfield.

Sarah Gillespie and Dave Hendin both knew that Calvin and Hobbes was a one-in-a-million obvious hit.....but the parent company Scripps rejected it based on a focus group.
Watterson took the project to Lee Salem at Universal Press Syndicate who loved it at first site....he also got a thumbs up from HIS focus group ( his own 2 kids age 9 and 11 ) and comic history was born.

Few modern companies have the structure to be able to make a decision based on "good judgement"
.....you'd think setting up a review panel ought to be easy enough....7 members.....5 out of 7 votes approval and the deal is done ( maybe a scoring system....need 5 or more 9/10's anonymous ballots ).....if that committee can't find a hit then their judgement is awful and it's time for a new committee.

focus groups get one vote accumulated and that's it.

Otherwise it's not a case of what's "good"...just what fits the company....it's true Dr. Suess was rejected 29 times before finding a publisher....but we don't know who those first 29 were.

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dermot
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I forgot to mention another aspect of the whole situaton as well....as far as I can see anyway.

For example.....in certain years....a toon channel will say "we want adult humour for teens for these time slots"
From conversations with people at the channel it's readily obvious that demographics in entertainment are not the driving force.....but rather ADVERT rates for those markets are higher. A channel might decide it could profit more with "adult" programming and the rates that they can charge for adverts in those time slots....and "let the other guys have that kid stuff" becomes almost an informal company slogan.

Once a network or channel commits to a four or five show stream of nightly entertainment they're pretty much set.
......and often an executive might say " our hands are pretty much tied creatively by our corporate partners"....which is toonspeak for....well.....that's the stuff between the lines that we can't read isn't it?

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SoleilSmile
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Produce a book or an animation series yourself and generate a following Easy Zee. Networks are skittish on experimental or vintage subjects. Believe it or not, they don't have money to burn.
I have a feeling that Jeff Kinney's wildly popular, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", is going to be optioned as a cartoon soon. It's fan base is ginormous!

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ColorInAble
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yeah, the net is somewhat of an equalizer as far as getting the gatekeepers out of the way in the pipeline between creators and fans.

I am wondering though, as I reply on my phone, what is this stuff going to look like in another generation?

My phone is my newspaper now, so I don't read comic strips anymore. So as I see these brought up as examples, I hate to say it, but it's a form that needs to move to the new medium, and hasn't. I hope it will, though we are still creating the infrastructure.

I say this in part because I'm not sure we are even going to be able to recognize our product in 50 years.

Will it be a live , interactive, edutainment, program on the TV-A-Net screen on the wall, or will they just beam the show into your dreams at night?

While the net is a great equalizer now, will it be when net nutrality is defeated by the republicans? Will I pay a cable company a premium for ColorInAble.com to come down their pipe at 3 Mbps, or not, and have it get to you at only 300 Kbps? When Time Warner buys my site in 2015, will it come down fast at TW cable and slow or not at all on Comcast?

In some ways now is a great time to strike, I wouldn't depend on this leveling of the playing field to always be as level as it is now.

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E. Allen
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It's true that the web is becoming viewed as more of a "training ground" for experimental content. Many of the networks are having shorts either based off of established properties, or outright unique ideas making their debut on the web. If it's successful enough, networks usually commit some airtime to it after they make a good deal with the creator of that content.

With some of my properties, this is what I would plan to do, in terms of exhibition.

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E. Allen
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Some of the information I posted came from an article on this very topic which appeared in Videography, a magazine geared toward HD content creating pros.
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