Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to measure a "hit"

In the world of broadcasting, success has traditionally been determined by ratings.  Ratings are supposed to measure the size of the audience - something that has been increasingly difficult in an era when programs are aired on multiple networks, may be time-shifted, and accessed through Video-on-Demand and IPTV. (See earlier posts here & here,)  This has led to proposals for alternative ways to measure audiences.  As the TV advertising market rebounds, and with an increasingly fragmented range of viewing options, advertisers are seeking better information to help place increasingly targeted ads.
Nielsen and CBS are working on shifting to a psychographic model that might be more effective for advertisers.
Optimedia US's Content Power Ratings (CPR) model looks at audience size across delivery systems (TV, Web, and mobile) and includes mentions of the program on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  The CPR is looked at as a better indicator of the level of interest and fan devotion to a program.  They're also looking to see whether social media buzz can aid in predicting a show's success.  At times, the two rankings match (American Idol was #1 on both) - other times there can be significant differences (Glee is ranked 55 by Nielsen and 2 by CPR, and South Park comes in at 211 on Nielsen, and 4 on CPR).
A third approach is to try to measure the actual effectiveness of advertising.  While the effectiveness of a specific spot is really difficult to determine, ad agencies like Universal McCann are developing statistical models combining viewing, sales data, brand attitudes, and broad economic data to help determine how much commercial time to buy, and at what price, to meet specific advertiser goals.
Other advertisers remain skeptical, preferring to remain with the well-established measurement norms. 

But the old norms of ratings were never as accurate or precise as they were treated by broadcasters or advertisers, and never directly measured either the audience for, or impact of, specific ads. We're in a world where data abounds, and analytical techniques flourish. It's well past time to try to develop better, and particularly more predictive, measures of the value of advertising spots to the advertiser.  Particularly if you want to justify higher prices for those spots (as broadcasters do).  It's not clear, yet, whether any of the new metrics are better - but at least they're trying to measure things that are more appropriate for predicting audience interest and/or effectiveness in reaching targeted audiences or in message impact.  Both broadcasters and advertisers need to be supportive of these efforts to measure something better that the presence of a warm body before the screen.

Source: "New Tools for Picking Hits", Wall Street Journal

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