Whenever you launch a new currency of measurement there will always be debate, fear and cries of unfairness: it’s totally natural.
So the brand new Oztam Video Player Measurement (VPM) has launched in Australia, spearheading the new measurement for the multiplatform and streaming TV world, measuring viewing across all platforms and consolidating into one total. The launch has, not surprisingly, sparked a heated debate over the validity of the approach. Although this is a launch in Australia, the debate is a global one that all the Tv industries are facing.
Why is there such a passionate debate over how we measure an audience?
Simply put, I see it as the heart of the economic survival of the industry.
In our work lives we often use the SMART KPI to set our own and our team’s goals. The measurable element is critical, otherwise how can we really attribute a rating or bonus? The media world is no different: measurement drives the economic risk and reward model across the industry.
The success of a TV show, radio host or new channel all rests on the hard facts, of how many people are actually watching or listening. Ultimately the decisions on where to invest in the wide alternate creative opportunities are driven by audience measurement. For commercial operators it is even more vital, as without the advertising dollars there is no revenue; and at the core for advertisers is the fact that they want the audiences at the price per person their clients are willing to pay.
As we know, the audiences are now enjoying their content in many ways and so the old model is broken. The closure of the Independent in the UK and our much-loved Channel V are evidence of the economic impact of this.
The VPM debate is really a debate about the industry shift to a new audience measurement currency. This has happened many times before, with new print publishing measurements like emma; delayed viewing with recorded subscription TV; the introduction of the VHS killing live TV; and the early days of online ‘hits’ as success of a website.
Every time a technological shift comes along the economic necessity for capturing drives a new way to measure, and every time, until this new measurement currency gets accepted there is always a passionate debate between the early adapters, the advertisers and the traditional players, as to why the system is unfair, over-counting and not trustworthy. In the end though the issues get ironed out, the trust builds and the stability between advertisers, agencies and media players accept the new currency.
I would argue that this time, there is a difference. The next evolution in ratings may be entirely different and no longer about ensuring that you capture every second of viewing or reading however you do it. With the second wave of digital disruption driving a need for very personalised experience, I can see the richness of my personal engagement being the high value-advertising asset.
Enjoying a TV show, for example, is a very personal and emotional experience and how much I enjoy watching may be a very valuable metric than simply how many people watch, for how long and on what devices.
How do we measure that deep engagement in a TV show, radio program or news article?
That is the question for the ever-evolving audience measurement systems. With digital content and the smarts of data and analytics, the depth of my enjoyment of a program may be assessed through a whole range of metrics, on top of viewing. It may be my social media activity around the show, who I connect with about the show, my buying habits pre- and post-watching and what I do afterwards. A complex array of individual events that may be woven into a pattern that can predict my economic value to an advertiser, simply by how much I engage with a TV show.
The new world of highly personalised audience measurement isn’t there yet – but I can certainly see it evolving when the technology and economics marry to make it work.
In the meantime, very soon we will all accept that measuring viewing across TV, live streaming and catch-up is the new trusted audience measurement current and wonder how we managed before!