This summer I've been working at two fabulous internships in New York--one with C3 Partner Turner Broadcasting and the other with the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF). These experiences are going to be invaluable to my C3 research this year as I've had the much-needed chance to see what's important to those who work in the media and advertising industries.
Last month, I was able to attend the ARF's Audience Measurement 4.0 (AM 4.0) conference. This two day conference brought together leading players from research, publishing, and advertising to discuss the state of audience measurement.
Videos of three keynotes are available on the ARF website. I highly recommend checking out NBC Universal's President of Research and Development Alan Wurtzel on "Crisis Measurement." Wurtzel's AM4.0 keynote was a response to an April Adweek article in which he calls for publishers to set aside competing interests and come together to develop a usable measurement currency. With the wealth of data available from set-top box measurement, Wurtzel argues that the entire industry is "drowning in data" and needs to work together to come up with workable standards, common definitions, and uniform metadata. Variations in audience metrics from different sources can translate into differences of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day in ad sales when publishers are trying to sell ad time: the need for a common, reliable measurement is critical. Wurtzel points to the Joint Industry Committee model, common in Europe, as a possible starting point, but this suggestion immediately raised red flags during the Q&A when audience members expressed concerns over US anti-trust laws.
Still, the need for industry cooperation seems more important than ever as online video is becoming a larger source of revenue. Hulu recently brought attention to the problems with online measurement when they publicly criticized Nielsen for under-counting its audience: In the month of March, ComScore counted 42 million Hulu viewers while Nielsen only reported 9 million. In a business based on CPM, a difference of 33 million viewers is unacceptable, even if online viewing only makes up a fraction of TV revenue. Further, large-scale projects like TV Everywhere will most likely complicate audience measurement even further as publishers and MSO's make TV subscription content available on multiple screens with authenticated protocols.
Wurtzel makes a very compelling argument. The data is there and it's abundant, but the industry needs to create standards and protocol to measure the quality of that data if they expect to use at as a workable basis for negotiation.