Originally posted on Variety:
Marshall McLuhan famously wrote, “The medium is the message.” And while the phrase is well-known, what comes immediately after it in McLuhan’s 1964 work is not: “This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium … result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
If McLuhan were writing in the 21st century, he might say, considering the increase in scale, that the media are the messengers; both are more varied and more abstruse than could have been imagined in 1964. The scale of new technology and the “extensions of ourselves” contribute to the challenge of interpreting market research data in any industry, but in an industry that introduces new products every week, that challenge is even more daunting. Businesses, whether movie studios or other enterprises, cannot completely control the message or messengers.
Market research in the movie industry took root in the early 1980s. The moviegoing audience was younger, under 25, but beginning to age up along with baby-boomers. The oldest boomer in 1987 was 41. That was the year industrywide tracking, as it is known today, was born. Today, the oldest boomer is 67, and still going to the movies. In 1987, forms of entertainment that competed with movies were limited. In 2013, movies represent just one entertainment choice among many.