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SMW 17: Gabriella Mirabelli Talks Leveraging Data Science in Online Video
Anatomy Media's Gabriella Mirabelli explains how content owners can leverage data science in online video without being data scientists in this interview with Tim Siglin at Streaming Media West 2017.

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Streaming Media West 2017. I'm Tim Siglin, Contributing Editor for Streaming Media Magazine and also a Media Strategy Principal at ReelSolver. Actually, just coming back from a session on Securing the Live Stream and with me today, I have Gabriella Mirabelli. She, actually, did a panel earlier today. So, introduce yourself and tell us about your panel.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Thank you for having me.

Tim Siglin: You're welcome.

Gabriella Mirabelli: My name is Gabriella Mirabelli and I'm the co-founder and CEO of Anatomy Media. We are a strategic consultancy and creative services agency, working with entertainment brands, helping them to market and promote their content. And the discussion that I did is about ... you don't have to be a data scientist to leverage data science from people like Netflix, BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Group Nine. There's a lot of information out there that you can put into play in your business and get ahead.

Tim Siglin: And where is your company based?

Gabriella Mirabelli: We're based in New York.

Tim Siglin: Okay. And is your client base primarily in New York, or is it L.A., London?

Gabriella Mirabelli: No, no. It's primarily in the U.S. But it is the big entertainment companies.

Tim Siglin: And how was it that these companies can leverage the learnings of Netflix or somebody else like that?

Gabriella Mirabelli: A real shift in how entertainment space has moved. It's gone from broadcast to cable. So, it seemed like oh it's nichified, and we have so many choices, but it was still mass media. And then it moved into my media, and with that shift came the attention economy, and it really all became about the user experience. And that's what it matters for the user, their experience. For the publisher, it's user behavior. And if we're gonna know what the users' behavior gonna be, you really have to investigate. What we see is a lot of A/B testing in terms of trying one thing or another, what wins.

Tim Siglin: Right, right, right.

Gabriella Mirabelli: And then also truly measuring things. Looking at ... If you're talking about publishing tastes, which is very important ... really looking at it and you can't take averages. And I talked about I hate averages. I made the point that you know, Bill Gates comes into the room and we're all immediately ... Average wealth goes way up--

Tim Siglin: Right, you're right, sure.

Gabriella Mirabelli: But it doesn't really describe us. So, looking at medians, looking at patterns, looking at the actuals, and then how you implement change.

Tim Siglin: And you know, the average person might understand publishing cadence and the fact that they have a blog, and they know that if they publish the blog on Tuesday, they'll get more people reading it than if they publish it on Friday. Media companies, though, have had a mindset around primetime, on specific nights. Are you finding that you have to unlearn some of your clients when you talk to them about that? "Unlearn" is probably not the right word ... help them get re-educated into the difference in the new media space.

Gabriella Mirabelli: I think, the thing with the new media space is really understanding which platforms worked, and which way is. You know, Twitter linear posting is okay, driving to linear is fine. In other platforms, it just isn't necessary. I think that what we do see is, a lot of incentives and organizational behaviors are driven by linear TV because currently, that's still where the money is. And I get into discussions about the need for perhaps shifting some of the mix of how things are. We look on ... at return on investment for social.

The thing that's really happened, the biggest shift, as far as entertainment publishers are concerned is about discovery. Social media for young millennials, Gen Z, 58% of them discover the content they watch through social, and this is a huge change because if you think of broadcast, if you think of cable, they owned the pipe of discovery.

They don't own the pipe of discovery, and not only that, but the leveling that takes place in social media. You have, you know, Mary Lou’s hat video, Viacom's piece, the New York Times' piece, the person in tin foil hat's piece, they're all in the same feed, they're all in the same typeface. It's very hard to distinguish.

Tim Siglin: It's interesting you say that because there's a book that I used to hand out to people. It's probably 18 years ago ... actually, in my 20-year pin of Streaming, but this was actually even before I was really into streaming. It's a book called The Interface Culture. In The Interface Culture, he was a ... wanna say it's Michael Johnson, but I'm not sure that's the correct author. He was a Brown University grad, and essentially, he made an argument that as we move from media to media, people have difficultly differentiating as we move into the new media what's real versus not and this whole conversation around fake news today reminds me of what he said, which was essentially, when newspapers began to be printed, if it was in the newspaper, it must be true. But you go two generations down the line and people were skeptical about that. Same thing with radio. It was really expensive to put something on the radio. If you heard it, it must be true, which is why the War of the Worlds worked.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Right.

Tim Siglin: What's interesting about where we are now, and this was his point, was in the Interface Culture, when everything looks equal, how do you figure out the balance of that, and is viral the way that you measure? Is it the number of eyeballs? Is it the number of active responses to a call for action? And so, some of the things you're saying are really intriguing.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Well, I think that in terms of believability, people are more willing to believe their friends, and then the next thing they'll believe is another individual, more than a celebrity, more than a brand. And that's why the authenticity is so important because especially with the young folks, being sold to feels fake. It feels manipulated; they don't want to be sold to.

Tim Siglin: Which is why you want influencers as opposed to salespeople.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Well, right. And what's interesting about influencers, because one of the things we also found the single most important aspect of social that was correlated with return on investment was the type of post, what the type was. Now, some companies can publish all one type of amazingly successful video but most can't.

Tim Siglin: Right.

Gabriella Mirabelli: And so then well, how ... If you have a social video that you have to put up, but it's not gonna be too successful, how can you maximize the opportunity for success?

Tim Siglin: Sure, sure.

Gabriella Mirabelli: And we talked about the flow of publishing then starts mattering, and what you have, because each social post lasts for about three days. So if you sandwich a post you know is a successful type, with your less successful type next, and then another successful type.

Tim Siglin: This is what we call burying the news.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Well, burying the news, it's also ... that's what influencers do.

Tim Siglin: All right, sure.

Gabriella Mirabelli: It's also in the old linear worlds. It's creating a lead-in to any program. So, these aren't new ideas, it's-

Tim Siglin: Or in the grocery store it’s the loss leader.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Yes, it gets you in but then who cares? You don't actually buy the really expensive dragon fruit.

Tim Siglin: Sure. You buy 30 other things at the same time. So, Anatomy sounds like an intentional name from that same--

Gabriella Mirabelli: Yes. Anatomy is very intentional name. Our creative services piece was our original piece and we are known for high-end editorial work. And so, it's the anatomy, the pieces of a spot put together.

Tim Siglin: Sure, sure.

Gabriella Mirabelli: My background was consulting. We always brought consulting to our projects. We've been in business 17 years. So. We're not new.

Around 2008, we started noticing a lot was changing, and really, our clients were in meetings, after meetings, after meetings. They were having trouble keeping up with what was happening. I was starting to survey, read, and really needed to separate some of those lessons, and really be able to talk completely, independently, and be creative about what was happening.

Tim Siglin: Because the problem in the creative world tends to be ... the creative agenc’s gonna suggest the next big thing that you heard about, you know? So, if it was Facebook, then it was Twitter, then it was in Tumblr, then it was Insta, now it's Snap, and that also tends to be suspect from a client's standpoint, to say, "You're just telling me what I wanna hear."

Gabriella Mirabelli: Well, and also, what would happen is the purchaser of creative services would sometimes say, "We want a 30-second spot." And we'd say, "Well, what are you trying to do?" And sometimes, we'd say, "You know, a 30-second spot isn't actually maybe the most effective way to go at it."

Tim Siglin: Right, right.

Gabriella Mirabelli: But that purchaser had a budget and was told that this is what they were gonna purchase. So, if I wanna talk about the strategy, I need to talk to a different person. So, it was a way to shift to who I was talking to--

Tim Siglin: Got it. That makes sense.

Gabriella Mirabelli: And then also, conducting research, you know? I had all sorts of beliefs and I said, "You know, I see all of these young people. They're not getting cable. It's gonna be a problem."

Tim Siglin: Right.

Gabriella Mirabelli: And I was talking to a cable network president and he said, "Oh, they will." I was like "Huh, really don't think they will."

Tim Siglin: Right. They never heard the term “cord never” ever because-

Gabriella Mirabelli: I actually--

Tim Siglin: None of us had heard that term.

Gabriella Mirabelli: I used it in an article.

Tim Siglin: Okay, very good.

Gabriella Mirabelli: I did, way back when. I do not get credit for it, but I'm gonna take it here.

Tim Siglin: Well, those of us who have been around for a long time, we can go back and pull articles from you know and was like "Hey, that's what I said back then."

Gabriella Mirabelli: "That's mine, I said it back then."

Tim Siglin: Nobody cares.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Nobody cares, I know, I know. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Tim Siglin: Absolutely.

Gabriella Mirabelli: It was great to share some of our thinking around these issues and I really had a great time.

Tim Siglin: Likewise.

Gabriella Mirabelli: Thank you.