The week in review: February 21st

Below is a quick summary of the top media stories from the past seven days, as well as new insights on media usage.

whatsapp

At this rate, no one will regard 2014 as a quiet year for media.

This week,  Facebook announced its acquisition of WhatsApp for a mere $19 billion.  Here’s one explanation as to why Facebook pulled off this surprise and here’s HBR’s perspective, which I think hits the nail on the head when it points out that unless you [Facebook] create an alternative, someone else will do it for you.  The waves created by this acquisition appeared to take some of the media spotlight away from the competitive concerns about Comcast’s plan to purchase Time Warner Cable, which are further magnifying the concerns about a US broadband crisis, something I can testify to myself after this past week on the home-front.

The Sochi Winter Olympics  are reaching their grand finale this weekend, which might be just as well for US audiences as ratings and interest starts to decline.  So far, interest has remained lower than the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  However, Jimmy Fallon made a strong start as the new host of the iconic Tonight Show.  Mike Bloxham opines that he expects to see the new host perform well at bridging the generation gaps.

If you haven’t seen it already, eMarketer has put out it’s 2014 Key Digital Trends report and PewInternet has identified six types of Twitter conversation with a report to explain it all.  Speaking of Twitter… the most eye-catching stat of the week: half of all tweets about Television are about Sports, yet in the US, Sports makes only 1.2% of all TV programming.

Another top newspaper – the Boston Globe – is moving to a metered pay-wall, which will make their digital traffic, not to mention their future revenues, from this point forward very telling.

For now at least, Brits continue to watch telly on the television.  A new Thinkbox study shows that the average viewer watched only three minutes of TV on mobile devices; it’s hard to envision this number not increasing sharply soon. Meanwhile, the BBC World Service announced plans to launch a teenage news bulletin – similar to BBC Radio 1’s NewsBeat –  to gain younger audiences – they already reach 192 million people globally.

Did I miss any other major stories this week?  I’m sure I did.  If you think so, please do add them in the comments section below.

Advertisements

Measure the Person or Measure the Device

To measure the person or the device is arguably the critical choice for media measurement.

The choice made can shape what one understands about how people use media today and that choice ultimately affects our insights into how we think people will use media tomorrow.

Multi-platform-usage

The media measurement industry understands this, but can do better in explaining to everyone else how that choice matters.

Let’s take broadcast radio and streaming radio as an example.

In the biggest cities in the US, broadcast radio listening is measured by Nielsen’s Portable People Meter, a small passive pager-like device that a person wears on their body, much like…well a pager.

Imagine a person preparing a meal in the kitchen for a 30-minute period, listening to a radio station.  Mid-way through this 30-minute period, they have to step away from the kitchen, and away from the radio, to attend to a child playing outside for 10 minutes.  They return to the kitchen and continue listening to the radio. In this basic example, the meter collecting exposure to the encoded radio signal will indicate they listened to the radio for 10 minutes, stepped away for 10 minutes, and then listened again to the same station for a further 10 minutes – as the meter on the person’s body determines that the person was within earshot of the radio.

Now, using the same scenario, imagine the person is in the kitchen for 30-minutes, but this time is streaming Pandora through their smartphone.  In this scenario, the device (the smartphone), not the person, is being measured.  When the person steps away for 10 minutes to attend to their child playing outside, the device has no way to know whether someone is listening or not.  The end result will show 30 consecutive minutes of uninterrupted listening to Pandora on the person’s smartphone, regardless of whether there was one person or many persons listening to any of the streaming music.

Hence the biggest disadvantage to measuring the device.  It might be ‘playing’, but is anyone listening?  Is anyone watching?  Is anyone actively engaged with the content?

And yes, I recognize that the PPM is not foolproof either, but at least it measures exposure to an audio signal which is equated as listening.

Reviewing the streaming data will show an uninterrupted 30-minute period of listening.  It will likely be assumed that the person is paying full attention to Pandora’s music, even when other lifestyle data will indicate that people come and go from their audio playing device whether it is a broadcast radio or a streaming device.  Some will conclude that people spend longer periods of time engaged and listening to Pandora than their local radio station, which is also wrong.  Data points like this will then be used to support the continued push of some services over others because listening and time spent listening metrics that look similar, but aren’t, are compared to one another as if they are apples-to-apples.

Misuse of data is nothing new – politicians do this to their advantage, businesses do the same.  In my experience, it’s seldom as intentional as one might conclude, still it’s harder to correct a misstated fact than it is to get it correct in the first place.  But it happens.  It keeps researchers busy and it drives them crazy at the same time! And it’s a classic example of how media measurement data is used to support an argument without fully understanding how it was being collected.

Measurement in the web/mobile space is just as complicated and can be fraught with even more misconceptions.

In recent years, both Nielsen and ComScore have moved towards building more sophisticated user-panels to measure web usage in an attempt to measure across devices, which still remains as the holy grail for digital measurement.  But this approach is arguably open to misuse through measurement boosters from fake users.  Companies themselves can collect data from their own servers, as many newsrooms currently do, but even this is flawed as these systems struggle to differentiate a user that might access a site through four different devices and be counted as four different users.  Hence, panels of people become the preferred approach, despite the pros and cons that come with almost any data source.

Media measurement is a critical field to better understand media behavior and prompts us to think about a critical choice – measure the person or measure the device. Let’s also not forget the second part  – understanding how the data was collected and how it should be explained in the bigger media-using picture.