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INSIDE RESEARCH: Platinum Age of Media Research? Not Yet.

July 14, 2011

July 2011, Issue 281, Volume 22, Number 7

by Laurence N. Gold, Editor & Publisher of INSIDE RESEARCH


Vastly-revised program format (despite being crammed into two days) made for more appealing attendee experience at ARF’s 6th Audience Measurement Symposium held at Marriott Marquis hotel in New York, June 13-14. Attendees came eager to hear industry leaders proclaim its growing – some say indispensible - role in shaping efficient measurement of scalable cross-platform audience, incorporating digital and mobile. They came away with general recognition that no reliable measures yet exist given complexity of problem (though slow progress being made), with experiments and research displayed at event covering only two platforms at a time (via single source or fusion). Also, apparent that industry-wide collaboration and funding necessary between advertisers, media and researchers to achieve goal, including standards.

Event place to go for camaraderie and networking in close-knit domestic media research community, supported by continued ad industry growth. As result, crowd swelled to record 750, 8% over last year, including 119 on program. While research suppliers again dominant group, diverse buyer side made up of media/agency/advertiser companies 44%. 16 sponsors got much signage, with highest paying ones (Arbitron, Kantar) getting stint at daily event co-chairs, much time on program to pitch wares, and top exhibit spots, while 11 exhibitors experienced high traffic from attendees constantly switching to hear breakout talks. High visual production values permeated whole event in bigger Marriott space.

Jammed program more linear, with nine concurrent sessions of four single talks each (many sponsored) and spaced throughout event made for ease of listener choice and transitioning. Panels, cut in half to six from last year, supported main sessions of program but still generally weak with little critical content and perspectives. Many talks essentially sales pitches, and 14 talks at under 20 minutes each. Attendees heard speakers mostly address now-traditional subjects – media single source databases and analytics but none on quality or privacy - with number of digital company speakers (Facebook, Google) adding sparkle and facetime, but little original thinking.


  • Keynoter David Brooks, political commentator/author/New York Times op-ed columnist, entranced audience with his take on thinking driven by unconscious mind doing most of work, emotion foundation of reasoning (how we think and behave) and conditioned/entwined by one another. He said 75% of success due other than IQ, listing interacting factors such as first 18 months of life, confidence, foresight from experiences, and self control. Much of his reasoning sourced established science regarding human nature, and entertained with numerous examples in cognitive toolkit.
  • Lively panel of top media journalists bemoaned their lot, complaining “cheering not our function,” said Chuck Ross, Joe Mandese, MediaPost, said, “Pace of change has accelerated, and having to contend with many different sources of information,” and Stuart Elliott, New York Times, grumbled about continuous deadlines. Mandese pointed to shift from primary research to real-time analytics and Ross targeted more and more information to distill as key issue today. Elliott said behavioral targeting across all media with privacy pushback broadly interesting to journalists . . . Panel of digital/social media research execs agreed regression-based mix modeling (with all variables) best method of connecting online advertising to offline purchasing but needs more work . . . Global panel agreed all-screen measurement need to be harmonized on comparable basis, and global scale requires different technology solutions, co-operation and investment with role of advertisers necessary.
  • Facebook got airing with its Brad Smallwood showing “non-representative” research often matched existing conventional surveys of total population. Polling results from one question at time highly accurate, but denied interest in getting into polling/research business. Hmmmmm. He opined that combining Google and Twitter via linking variables with Facebook could make databases more representative and encouraged this type of collaboration . . . Panel of non-research execs criticized media research as “antiquated and nowhere” and falling behind rapidly changing media. Leslie Picard, Time Inc., said Time audience has 30-50 million new media viewers but still measured by syndicated magazine readership. “Multi-platform measurements eluding us so far,” but applauded efforts. Also, “We will support cost of development if industry can prove that bottomline loss to the client results from bad measurement.” Huh?
  • David Shanker, Ipsos Observer, lamented data overload and estimated 90% of clients using research as tactical tool, not strategic source, and not willing to pay for creativity with process (cheaper/faster) getting in way of it. He said, “We are forced to lack curiosity” . . . In digital measurement panel, Jeffrey Graham, Performance Initiative, advocated measuring outcomes and business results (ROI), never mind numbers. Once popular “engagement” idea now superseded by “exposure metrics across all media content”, said Colleen Fahey Rush, MTV Networks.
  • Massive Disney Media Lab study of consumer reception to 3D TV on 3D sports network ESPN revealed 3D to go nowhere until glasses eliminated, reported DML’s Duane Varan . . . Google Inc. exec Owen Charlebois said company has three initiatives (set of aspirational principles, partnerships with research vendors, and experimentation), and argued for cross-media research investment with industry-wide effort necessary since “challenge too big for one organization” . . . Elaborate/complicated cross-platform ESPN XP Initiative that studied football fans (radio/cable/TV via Arbitron PPM) with endless statistics, revealed success in single-source measurement possibilities.
  • Innovative CIMM pilot test of USA TouchPoints life context study tracking individual media behavior (reporting every half hour for 10 days) validated use in media planning said Jim Spaeth, Media Behavior Institute (but 23% response rate troubling). Study to be fused with Nielsen TV and online data and Keller Fay’s Talk Track initially, and later with Nielsen Homescan, Rentrak and comScore . . . Another cross-media study of TV and Internet use via single source database revealed both together generate higher impact than each alone, but results not generalizable, said Joan FitzGerald, comScore Inc.


REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION. Copyright 2011 by INSIDE RESEARCH. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Federal law provides severe civil penalties for unauthorized photocopying or faxing or electronic transmission of this newsletter, including for internal use. ISSN 1084-2624.

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