There are two major research issues facing the industry now, as evidenced by the attention they received at the recent ARF 7.0 Insights Conference.
One issue is how we define television, with the question being, “Is it the television set that forms the basis for the U.S. TV universe, or are sets no longer the best base on which to measure the ability to receive ‘television’ content?” The other, a corollary to the definition of TV, is, “What are the best cross-platform measurement metrics to use for the media industry?” Are there certain functionalities that work best for one platform that do not translate across platforms or can we come to an agreement for a standardized cross-platform metric that captures all viewing and usage to give us a 360 degree total?
The ARF 7.0 conference offered an opportunity to explore all of these issues in greater depth. In asking industry researchers at the conference about the best cross-platform metrics, I found a range of opinion, from Nielsen’s Leslie Wood, who said, “It already exists. It’s advertising response,” to TRA’s Bill Harvey, who said, ”ROI is the key deciding factor,” to GroupM’s Lyle Schwartz, who doesn’t think there is a singular metric for any medium. While there could be baseline metrics across all media such as reach and frequency, Schwartz believes that there is an additional need to create specialty metrics based on the specific attributes of the content platform.
Carat’s Billie Gold had another opinion. She said, “The Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings product, used in conjunction with its existing television audience measurement capabilities, is the closest we can get to true cross-platform measurement at this time. It is not an exact comparison, but we’re definitely getting closer to an acceptable comparison.”
Jane Clarke from CIMM explained that there was interest in the creation of a single source, scalable measurement system and perhaps a move away from pure demographics toward “targeted exposure metrics.” But ESPN’s Glenn Enoch said that a single-source application may not be possible; the solution may be to create a calibration hub where existing datasets can be fused. And with second and third screens of various sizes, Richard Zackon of the CRE posited that it may be necessary to take into account the size of screens as part of the measurement criteria.
These are all valid and intriguing thoughts. (Please click here to see a short video of the responses I collected at the ARF conference.)
In my opinion, the question of the perfect cross-platform metric may slowly evolve toward a standardized solution as connected TVs filtrate through the population. Since these television sets can use IP for program delivery, the measurement criteria for “traditional” television may eventually evolve and coalesce into IP measurement. Until then, it will be interesting to see some of the creative applications developed for cross-platform total measurement.