Television One Zero
Full disclosure: In my current role as chief research officer at TVB, I take the health and welfare of television seriously – but not at the expense of good research. In fact, it was only two years ago that the Council for Research Excellence and Ball State University released its seminal Video Mapping Study that proved conclusively that respondents overstate their consumption of digital media like the Internet and understate their viewing of television.
Not convinced? Ask yourself, could you accurately report down to the minute how much time you spent with TV, mobile and the Internet yesterday? What if you were on the Internet via your fancy new IPTV-enabled TV set? Or you watched the local news on your mobile app? Or shared a clip from “America’s Got Talent” with your friends on Facebook? Is it time spent with TV or is it time spent with digital?
The fact is, it’s now impossible to separate “television” from “digital.” Since 2009, virtually all commercial television is digital. Even over-the-air-only homes have to have a digital TV set, or at least a converter box. As an industry, “television” has had an easier time changing its infrastructure than changing perceptions. It’s hard not to associate “digital” with a dot-com. Not including television within any discussion of digital media is grossly misrepresenting the role that digital plays in our lives today.
Even Mediapost’s Editor in Chief, Joe Mandese, challenged eMarketer’s predictions, pointing out in a recent article that “thinking of ‘digital’ as being synonymous with ‘online’” is problematic. TV’s DNA is the same as the Internet’s DNA. They’re all Ones and Zeroes.
Nearly every station today has a website, apps, video and a social presence. Digital sub-channels make use of the digital spectrum to offer multiple layers of station content, and Mobile Digital TV allows TV to be part of people’s lives on the go.
Most importantly, no matter the platform, television content is the driving force behind time spent. Television remains the most-used medium of American consumers, and this, in turn, stimulates user-driven content within social media. What is derided as “traditional media” is actually the wellspring of our cultural touchstones, driving usage, interaction and conversation across all means of access: analog and digital. We talk about what we watch and we trade on that knowledge in social circles, online and off.
So let’s not mistake an eco-system partner for a competitor. It’s time that we take better care to define our terms along the lines of how consumers engage with our media, and not how we’d prefer the advertising pie to be divided. Media ecology is a messy, interdependent space that, like nature, doesn’t fit into neatly discrete boxes to compare and contrast. The complexity demands more hybrid approaches to marrying real behavioral analytics and proper market research methods to best understand how media consumers are engaging.
And yet, sometimes it’s as simple as considering your own experience as a reality check. In addition to “a sucker,” there apparently is also a research statistic born every minute. Sometimes the difference between being informed and being educated is in trusting that little voice of experience in the back of your head. In this case, in the constructed reality of “digital” vs. “television,” you need only consider what really constitutes your digital media consumption these days. Without television, you’re probably missing most of the picture.