The Compelling Nature of Story
Can a film, program or news piece stir a person to action? Does media help formulate our beliefs? Sway our opinions? At the Media Impact Project, we spend our days creating new methods to help find answers. We work with premiere partners from media and philanthropy who are interested in learning to what extent their documentaries, podcasts, videos and articles spurred action -- whether that action was to push an Act Now button on a website, to share a post on Social Media, to start a grassroots campaign, or to participate in the democratic process by canvassing, protesting, organizing or other endeavors. We strive to apply acquired knowledge to projects that serve the social good, and to be a thought leader on research issues in our field. Read on to learn of our projects and how they might help YOU in your own work....
MIP Areas of Interest
Social Justice, Culture and Impact of Media
Click here to learn more about MIP's efforts to help media makers assess the impact of their work to influence behaviors, attitudes and actions, and to learn of nonprofits' efforts to measure and understand the role of media representations on culture.
Virtual Reality and Immersive Media
Virtual Reality and other new technologies hold promise for helping people immerse themselves inside a story. The pros and cons of the new technologies -- both for audiences and for media organizations -- are explored in our series of studies on Virtual Reality. Learn More.
Public Diplomacy through Media
As one of the United State's top exports, entertainment can help shape perceptions of America globally. In a series of studies in partnership with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the US Department of State, MIP evaluates the power of Soft Diplomacy in entertainment.
Research Projects in Journalism
Major projects include the Ford Foundation's support of research to measure the coverage of Africa in US media, and a three-part Gates Foundation project that explores how issue-based media can inspire action. With a focus on Virtual Reality, Impact Journalism, and storytelling strategies that elicit emotion, MIP is providing an empirical assessment of how medium, message and storytelling elements affect changes in awareness, attitudes and behavior. Read more.
Our work involves...
1. Evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) strategy
2. Audience research
3. Media assessment (content analysis, media analytics)
4. Stakeholder analysis
5. Usability and A/B testing
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Gates Foundation is supporting a three-part research project that explores how issue-based media can inspire action. With a focus on virtual reality, Solutions Journalism, and storytelling strategies that elicit emotion, MIP will provide an empirical assessment of how medium, message and storytelling elements affect changes in awareness, attitudes and behavior. Read more.
Measuring the Impact of Narrative Ingredients of Episodic TV
What combination of narrative ingredients (i.e. character, plot line, framing, emotional cathartic moment) on episodic TV shows are the most salient, appealing and galvanizing to specific target audiences? The Media Impact Project in collaboration with futurePerfect Lab aims to answer this question through funding from Pop Culture Collaborative. The study uses content analysis of the top 50 shows on TV and survey research to garner psychographic data as it relates to ideology and entertainment preferences. Findings will be interpreted by the narrative engine designed by MIP Senior Fellow Heidi Boisvert. The narrative engine is an embodied, cross-media experience that combines scientific rigor, creative expression and emerging technology to offer new insights into data science and media effects research. It helps us understand the underlying mechanisms that drive empathetic engagement.
The Africa Initiative
The Africa Initiative was established to create greater public knowledge and understanding of and engagement with Africa, through research, creative communications campaigns, and collaborations with private, public and non-profit partners. The Initiative’s inaugural research project, Africa in the Media, aims to better understand media portrayals of Africa and their impact on public awareness, attitudes, and actions toward the continent. With support from the Ford Foundation, Africa in the Media uses a content analysis of news and entertainment programming to allow us to determine how often Africa and specific African countries are depicted or mentioned on US television. Additionally, a deeper analysis of scripted fictional entertainment programming will illuminate what stories are being told about Africa. This research will provide a baseline for depictions of Africa on US television, allowing us to discern trends over time. In future research, this data will provide the basis for a series of opinion surveys that will allow us to connect the dots between media depictions, consumption, and public opinion.
The Media Impact Project joined PBS NewsHour on a four-year NSF grant which aims to study how media-based tools and platforms affect early career adults’ (aged 18-35) interest and engagement with STEM content. MIP serves as external evaluator and science / technical advisor to the grant.
American Film Showcase
The American Film Showcase (AFS) is the US State Department’s premier American film diplomacy program, organizing screenings and workshops with American filmmakers in more than 35 countries. AFS is a partnership between the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. AFS reached out to the Media Impact Project to serve as program evaluator. In this role, MIP is developing an evaluation protocol for the program as well as leading the evaluation for the 2016-2017 program.
Nonprofit organizations Color of Change and Define American are interested in measuring the amount and the way people of color are represented on television, particularly crime shows and in prime time. What images does the general public see on a daily basis through television programming? Two current studies underway will explore the representations as currently depicted on television. Our findings will be shared with publicly.
Hilton - KCRW Partnership
When KCRW – Southern California's flagship NPR affiliate -- received a grant from the Hilton Foundation to generate public awareness about issues impacting vulnerable populations in Los Angeles, they turned to MIP to evaluate success. Now in its third and final year, KCRW has produced three award-winning programs under the Hilton grant. These include Below the Ten, KCRW Investigates, and There Goes the Neighborhood. Episodes have won regional and national awards and have been rated among the top podcasts on iTunes. MIP researchers have developed tools and methods to evaluate the process and measure the extent to which the goals of the grant have been met. We anticipate our final evaluation in early January 2018, while a Case Study under MIP's Insight Series will be available to the public soon thereafter.
USC Shoah Foundation
USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive (VHA) is a collection of over 53,000 video testimonials spanning 63 countries and 40 languages from witnesses and survivors of genocides including the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide, the Nanjing Massacre, and the Cambodian Genocide. The foundation reached out to MIP to serve as a research partner for this project. In this role, MIP is leading the evaluation as well as supporting formative and iterative research phases. The initial engagement consists of three primary tasks: (1) Formation of a VHA Evaluation Committee, (2) Facilitation of an Evaluation Summit for this group, and (3) Development of an Evaluation Plan for the four-year project.
America Divided: Igniting Social Action through Documentary
America Divided is an EPIX Original docu-series that features a unique publicity and engagement plan to inspire solutions on issues of social injustice was designed around America Divided, the EPIX Original docu-series that features narratives around inequality. The series follows high-profile correspondents including Common, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Zach Galifianakis, Norman Lear, Amy Poehler, Peter Sarsgaard, and Jesse Williams as they explore topics from education to immigration related to their own life stories. MIP concluded its study of the campaign and its findings include 15 tips for media makers who want to inspire action.… Read the Insights Report that considers America Divided as a case study for other media makers on how to ignite action around their own documentaries
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is collaborating with Purple States TV to create an online video series for their “Your Path to Our Health” project, part of the larger Culture of Health initiative. The series features stories of culture and health in communities across the nation, with the ultimate goal of increasing health equity for all. The Lear Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society team is creating related online content for the video series, and MIP is conducting an evaluation of this web resource as well as the overall collaborative process between RWJF, Purple States, and the project’s community-based advisory group.
Does Virtual Reality have a role in Journalism?
Virtual reality entertainment has been a growth industry among audiences and creators alike as companies seek to find the most engaging uses of the new technology. In the field of journalism, news distributors are also considering VR’s power to bring news to readers in ways never before imagined. In a series of studies with the team at PBS Frontline, MIP researchers are analyzing the impact of virtual reality on participants’ knowledge acquisition, behavior and attitudes. This cutting edge research will have implications for news organizations considering virtual reality projects… if you are interested in receiving information on VR research at MIP, let us know and we will add you to our list.
What Influences Engagement Online?
A unique partnership between MIP, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the team at Upworthy, the well-known viral content distributor founded by Eli Pariser in 2012, will bring a wealth of new research to light on viewer response to online content. In pursuit of its widely popularized mission "to change what the world pays attention to," Upworthy leaders decided to move beyond simply reporting audience reach figures and began to test the site’s ability to impact the advancement of prosocial outcomes. Hoping to generate broad insights into improving media impact for media producers striving to enhance the public good, they conducted a series of experiments, surveys, content analyses, and other investigations related to their mission-based content.