After viewability and fraud, what’s the biggest issue in digital metrics today? Now, I know what you’re thinking: “There are other
issues in digital metrics?” Humor me
for a few hundred words.
From my perspective, given that we’re taking a column-long reprieve from viewability and fraud, the biggest measurement issue currently confronting buyers, sellers
and researchers in the digital space is cross-platform or multiscreen measurement. In short: the convergence of TV and digital measurement, encompassing computers, smartphones, tablets, so-called
“traditional” TV, and over-the-top (OTT).
- The phenomenon of “cord-cutting” is real. I know most estimates peg this at between 4%-8%, which may
not seem like much now. But in 2004, telephonic cord cutting (aka, cell-only households) was at about 4%. Now it’s
at about 44%. TV cord-cutting may not get to 44% in 10 years, but it’s not going to abate any time soon.
- The digital space now has its own version of TV’s upfront:
the Newsfronts, where both traditional and digital-only video providers convene to present short- and long-form program opportunities to advertisers. These programs are consumed across a diverse
multiplicity of screen types.
- To an entire generation, “TV” has taken on a new meaning. Recently I asked my 10-year-old daughter what she was doing. “I’m
watching TV,” she called from her room. When I looked in on her, she was watching Netflix on her iPad.
As measurement providers strive to build cross-platform solutions for this
new multiscreen world, the question before us is this: What do we really want from cross-platform measurement? Here are some suggestions:
- Combined, unduplicated reach. To you
media mathematicians out there, this probably seems self-evident. Unduplicated reach is the primary goal of all cross-media measurement system: whether via single-source collection, fusion, or some
other form of integration across data sets. Unduplicated reach is the core building block that makes other measurements possible (without it you haven’t got reach and frequency). Since
individual media generally have their own measurement solutions, it is the technique for handling cross-media duplication that tends to drive the efficacy of cross-media solutions.
- Reporting granularity. When we talk about granularity, we mean, how small a media vehicle audience can the system report on with sufficient robustness? And hand-in-hand with how small, how
many entities are reported? (You digital folks will recognize “small” and “many” as the long tail.) Once you bring TV, mobile, and computer measurement together, you need to
report on TV networks and programs across traditional TV distribution channels, OTT, the Web, the mobile Web, and on specific apps. Traditional audience measurement constructs tend to fall apart when
confronted with the requirement for this level of granularity in measurement and reporting.
- Media allocation, optimization and scenario planning: The classic question in
cross-platform planning is, “What happens if I shift some spending from here to there?” A successful cross-platform solution must allow users to test alternative media and vehicle
allocations. In many respects, this ability to optimize is the great promise of unified cross-platform measurement, because it represents a previously untapped opportunity to increase ad buy
So how do we get there? Cross-platform measurement should not be TV measurement with some digital tossed in; neither should it be digital measurement with a little TV on
the side. Ideally, It should be the holistic joining of the two, without the baggage of either: either via brand-new measurements, or by the intelligent integration of existing systems. Of course,
that’s easier said than done, because one man’s baggage is another man’s industry infrastructure.
If you look at the activity internationally -- specifically, the TV audience
measurement (TAM) and Internet audience measurement (IAM) JICs -- in both cases, the movement is toward expansion of legacy currency systems to incorporate mobile measurement. This makes mobile the
core focal point of multiscreen measurement.
I expect that we’re going to see the TAM and IAM providers around the world begin to approach each other about building mobile
measurement assets in partnership, in order to bring their two systems together into a single holistic, cross-platform measurement system. In this scenario, mobile measurement is the “Golden Spike” -- the final stake in the ground sealing the connection between two tracks running
inexorably toward each other.
Let’s loop back to my daughter, using Netflix and her iPad to “watch TV.” I think we all recognize that this is where media consumers are at
these days. They move between screens and program sources, following the content. In doing so, they make our jobs more complicated than ever before. I believe that the future of cross-platform
measurement will require multiple currency data sets and machine-level census data sets, and I suspect much of the action will rotate around the axis of mobile measurement, where TV and digital come