Passive Measurement for Radio Awaits the Verdict

A recent FiveThirtyEight article on the Voltair/PPM saga is another landmark moment in the growing credibility problems Nielsen is enduring this year with its inherited PPM device.  Nielsen’s unwillingness to respond or vigorously deny the possible inflated numbers when stations use the Voltair meter only serve to fan the flames further, conspiracy or otherwise.

PPM-Minutes_listenedOn the one hand, it makes little difference.  If the Voltair audio technology does allow PPM devices to more effectively pick up more of the encoded signal that says a radio station is near, then stations should go get one.  If it’s available to all, then there is no unfair advantage to those who purchase the extra boost – akin to the survival of the fittest.  As Radio Consultant, Mark Ramsey argues, “Just keep in mind that all one is doing here is you are boosting exposure to an audio signal” – not listening or engagement or passion or interest or anything else.

On the other hand, the cautious approach by Nielsen here is the right one, even if it is frustrating in our fast-moving world that gravitates to immediacy and headlines, rather than process and review.  The stakes here are very high.  Being as thorough and rigorous as possible may save the industry from a needless exposure of a false-positive for the radio measurement industry.  The credibility of the ratings would be shot and advertisers could quickly decide that radio is no longer viable in the data-rich digital age.

After al, that’s what this is about – the credibility of the ratings – and whether or not they are flawed, and if so, by how much?  In the meantime, US Radio continues to wait.

Before the merge…offline versus online

Over the past few days, I have seen a post on TV measurement from The Wall Street Journal  make the rounds on numerous media blogs and groups on LinkedIn and thought it would be worth highlighting here.

nielsen tvThe basic story is that Nielsen has attempted to measure across different platforms – as Nielsen uniquely can – to see where people really spend their time between various devices – namely Television, Radio, PC’s, and Smartphones.  Low and behold, when one makes a genuine effort to paint an entire picture, not a partial one, then it becomes clear that the TV landscape is not ready to die just yet.  The same narrative could also be made about FM/AM radio when making comparisons to the many streaming competitors – even in the US market where radio usage has been in long-term decline since before the arrival of iPods, iPhones, and numerous new audio services.

Nielsen’s newly released Quarter 1 Total Audience Report is well worth the read.  It’s another example of how Nielsen has to persist by being as objective as it can to all of the different platforms it can measure – as well as be one of the few trying to paint that entire picture, with or without comparable metrics and a full dataset.

It has to be nice to everyone to ensure that both broadcasters and digital players stay with Nielsen and don’t go off and seek another measurement company or another metric that likes them better.

It’s also telling that cross-media measurement still has a long, long way to go to best understand the value of how different media can be measured equitably.  Note that the WSJ article gets a little sidetracked with comparing seconds of video and minutes of TV – a notable point, but the report has so much more to say.

At some point – the optimist in me says 3 years, but it could be as many as 5-10 – this understanding of old and new media will be a thing of the past and reports like this will update the trends on what is up and what is down.  In the meantime, we’re still stuck in this offline, online world.

Facebook Raising the Bar for Audience Engagement

In a nod to the quickly evolving world of audience measurement – as well as an acknowledgement that metrics need to develop even more quickly to keep up with behaviour – Facebook used its considerable clout to redefine engagement.  It did this the old-fashioned way – tracking how long people spend looking at individual items (in their newsfeed).

Why?  Because a like (or don’t like), a comment, or a share doesn’t necessarily = it wasn’t for them.

22nd-June-2015-Why-Facebook-Is-Tracking-Time-Spent-On-NewsfeedsThat’s right – sometimes people just want to see information without putting their stamp of approval on it.  That’s a good thing, particularly for global content providers who serve audiences across a wide variety of cultures, some of which would frown upon the acts of liking or commenting.

It’s also a smart move because more and more people, especially in younger demos, are using Facebook much more passively than when Facebook first burst onto the scene.  Engagement can mean many things across different media and Facebook has taken a big step in acknowledging audiences can interact with content in many different ways and how we measure needs to account for that.

Media Research Needs to Evolve Even Faster

Whether you have been in market or media research for 5 years or 20 years or many more, then you know that the discipline is going through a ferocious pace of change, just like seemingly every other industry.

The-Smarter-Researcher-300x226And it needs to.  Think about your own media habits and the media devices that you owned even five years ago or look around your own home or office and you can tell how the new normal for many of us is to constantly add to or replace older devices.  That opens the door for market researchers to help companies understand people’s changing needs and behaviours.

It’s also on the research industry’s shoulders to keep evolving, arguably faster, to narrow the gap between new behaviour and understanding what’s driving it.  Actually measuring those new behaviours is a topic for another day and one that the industry is really struggling to control.

This background makes the new report, The Smarter Researcher by Ray Poynter, a very worthwhile and readable read – not just for media researchers, but any form of market research.  Ray lists 10 steps that market researchers can do to enhance its relevance.  These are great steps for any researcher, young or old, to aspire to in their everyday work.

  1. Separate the Signal From the Noise
  2. Traditional Surveys Aren’t Enough
  3. Big Data isn’t Enough
  4. Engage Customers in an Ongoing Two-Way Partnership
  5. Become A Storyteller
  6. Go Mobile
  7. Embrace Innovation
  8. Connect the Dots
  9. Translate Business Problems
  10. Break out of the Market Research Silo

If you haven’t already, go download the report from the Vision Critical website.

The Internet of Things and Your Audience

The so called “Internet of Things” is developing quickly and is no longer explained as your refrigerator warning that you are low on milk and cheese.

theinternetofthings2Effectively, it’s the third wave of the internet.  Wave 1 was in the 90’s when the fixed internet connected 1 billion users via PC’s.  Then the mobile internet of the 2000’s connected 2 billion users via smartphone. Now wave 3, the internet of things, is expected to connect 28 billion things to the internet by 2020 ranging from wearables, cars, appliances, and industrial equipment.  Naturally, the repercussions will be huge, but many years from now, I think it will be the speed of that comparative change that will leave us with our heads spinning.

While this will change how all of our devices – screen or otherwise – communicate around us, it’s worth thinking about how the internet of things will change how we consume and how we experience.

Content makers take note because the internet of things will also overhaul audience measurement in a way that will leave it unrecognisable in a very short time.  After all, from signing into any website or volunteering to be tracked, the audience can now be asked about how they discovered your content, how they engaged with your content, how and why did they complete consumption, and what are their reflections.

All fantastic stuff to know, so long as you then pledge to do something with all of that information.  No doubt more companies will get this wrong then get it right, but even small changes can go a long way.

It’s time to get the ball rolling again

ball_rollingIt has been too long.

Much has happened since the last post here – both professionally and personally.  My wife and I have turned our lives upside down by leaving the US and moving to the UK, an unexpected return for me but a fresh start for her and our two daughters.

Future posts here will be short but more frequent.  There’s lots to share here – people’s behaviour with media is not going to stop evolving and changing any time soon.  Content providers are not going to sit still and technology companies will continue to create more amazing devices and services that we did not know we need.  It’s never dull and it’s constantly changing – that’s why I love to write about it.

Weekly Review: More new TV gadgets and music services

Another week saw another new TV product released.  This time, it was Google’s turn who announced a forthcoming ‘Android TV’ Set Top Box.  This follows Amazon’s recent Fire TV, of which Android TV will resemble, except the voice-recognition and that it’s Google and likely knows a lot about you.  I do share Steve Smith‘s confusion over Google’s move, given it will run directly against the Google Chromecast, which while only a first generation device has been a game changer in my household. Gigaom go into greater depth here about Google’s ultimate goal with the new TV product.

Sticking with Google, the company announced a surprising used-car dealer tactic by selling its Google Glass for $1,500 for one day only – this Tuesday (April 15th, which maybe coincidentally is US Tax Day).  I am sure these will sell quickly, despite the price.

Google hope to attract doctors to test Google Glass this week

On the Music service front, this week was Samsung’s turn with the announcement of a new deal with Deezer, which will be provided for free for six months to Europeans who purchase the new Samsung Galaxy S5 phone.  Of course free music services (from Spotify, Rdio, etc) begs the questions as to how musicians are supposed to make money.

In news that surprised no one in US Radio, Nielsen Audio announced at last week’s NAB conference in Las Vegas that they will integrate broadcast and webcast (streaming) ratings.  Only a few technical details were released, announcing that the listening data will include the device (web player, mobile app, etc), the listener attributes (age, location either in-home or out-of home), and importantly de-duplication between broadcast and webcast.  Triton Ratings have already moved into the local webcast metrics reporting and their monthly reports confirm the gigantic lead in streaming that Pandora has built in recent years.  It will be fascinating to see how Nielsen plays in tandem between traditional broadcast clients and new webcast clients, a topic I had blogged about here a couple of years ago when Arbitron, who were later bought out by Nielsen, first announced its Total Audience Measurement metric.

Finally, I’d like to recommend a thoughtful piece from Medium about how the newspaper industry is thinking how best to archive yesterday’s news.  And if you are history buff with another spare moment, I would wholeheartedly recommend a quick browse at the stunning NewYork TimesMachine.