I’ve had many debates
with my editor friends at both print and online outlets about their responsibility reporting dubious research claims as “fact.”
But this is really only marginally a press problem. As long as they have a credible source, and present the data sourced and quoted, they’re off the hook -- regarding the content of the story at least. Working under daily deadlines, they have neither the time nor the resources to vet every claim.
They simply report what people say. I would not want the editors of MediaPost to question every research-based claim I make. If someone has a problem with it, let them say so in the comments section, or write their own article.
I do think, however, that reporters who have been covering this business for years shouldn’t pretend they know nothing about these topics. When they do use some of these mediocre or agenda-based research studies, they should at least quote a more objective source within the same story (I, and several other research executives I know, would gladly offer our services in this regard).
Several years ago, my colleague, Sharianne Brill
and I were co-chairs of the Council For Research Excellence’s Media Consumption and Engagement Committee.
Along with some of the best research minds in the business (buyers, sellers, and advertisers) we helped develop the landmark Video Consumer Mapping Study.
There were two tidbits that came out of this study that did not receive much press. First, when asked about their media behavior, people dramatically overstate their online usage and understate their TV usage.
I recall after the study we asked the participants about their media behavior. One person was asked how much time she spends on her smartphone. She thought it was at least two to three hours a day. It was actually about 20 minutes. And this was someone who knew we had just observed her actual media usage. People simply have no real idea about how much time per day they spend using different media devices.
The second point, which came as a surprise to me, was that Nielsen data for broad usage levels (total people, adults 18-49) was remarkably similar to the results of the observational data. This started to change as the demo groups got smaller, but for the broad categories it was spot on.
I only bring this up because when it comes to determining whether TV viewing is shifting, I much prefer to rely on Nielsen data and its Total Audience Report than studies done by companies that benefit from people thinking TV viewing is declining, while alternate sources are growing unabated.
In reality, television viewing is down by 3% from last year, while video viewing on Internet, smartphone, and multimedia devices combined is up by 45%. Misleading statistics considering their vastly different starting points. A more telling statistic is that 91% of all video viewing is still to traditional TV (and more than 90% of that is live viewing).
Even among the under-25 crowd, more than 80% of viewing is still to traditional television.
Another way to look at it is that viewers spend nearly 5 ½ hours per day watching television, compared to about 25 minutes per day watching video on the Internet and smartphones combined.
Television viewing, while not immune to the many other sources available to consumers, is still dominant and quite healthy thank you.
What’s the bottom line here? When seeing headlines proclaiming or predicting the downfall of traditional television, read the entire article and note the source.
Steve Sternberg is has more then 30 years of television and video analysis experience, having held top research posts at Bozell, TN Media, Magna Global, and ION Media Networks.