This article was originally published on MediaPost.
The global pandemic accelerated significant changes already underway in how audiences both consume and measure media. Multi-screen streaming represents one of the biggest technological changes in a generation; trying to measure this shifting media landscape in 2021 with the same approach we used when there were only a handful of television networks is as futile as it sounds.
As audiences fragment into more and more specialized channels, platforms, and content, only an approach that leverages “data exhaust” – including the output from return path data from a TV – can begin to measure the full spectrum of media behavior.
There needs to be a fundamental change in how media is transacted in the 21st century, including these crucial considerations:
1) Media measurement needs to be passive and impression-based. Impressions are the common language across media inventory. Passive, impression-based measurement is the best way to create a holistic view of what advertisers are getting for their media dollars.
2) Media impressions need to be properly deduplicated so advertisers can measure true reach and apply frequency management to their messaging. This amount of detail can only be obtained by data – not by small, recruited panels. Deduplication requires scale, and a data-driven, census-like approach is the most reliable way to achieve this.
3) Modern media measurement must be built by a company grounded in technology and big data management. To properly measure viewing, media consumption, and consumer behavior in today’s modern landscape, a technological background – as well as a deep understanding of measurement – is necessary. Conversely, a panel-centric approach to measurement, which is anchored in the past, simply isn’t equipped to analyze the new world order.
4) It’s about audiences, not age and gender demos. Age and gender demos were historically used for targeting because that was all small samples could support. Today’s advertisers are no longer limited to this outdated method and can use actual consumer information (or consumer targets) to reach audiences and evaluate their media choices. A data-driven measurement approach that uses consumer information allows advertisers to make better choices.
5) It requires a huge focus on privacy and passive media collection. To handle the treasured media and consumer data required from third parties, a commitment to privacy is needed. A long history – backed by a track record of providing transparency in data collection, choice for consumers, and alignment with international privacy and security standards – is paramount in gaining the trust of the information suppliers. Using large scale information from the source is required to passively collect the data needed to measure true media consumption. The combination of media fragmentation and declining participation in active panel participation together spell the end of the “good old days,” when panels were sufficient at measuring media usage on their own.
6) Lastly, and most importantly, a deep experience in both TV and digital measurement is required to succeed. The traditional TV and digital worlds have converged. The metrics and techniques used to measure effectively have blended to create cross-platform measurement.
With more than 20 years of experience in digital and more than 15 years of experience in TV, Comscore – a technology company at its core – now owns the best multi-source, data-driven tool to effectively capture rapid changes in audience consumption of media content and ads. Comscore has an unmatched collection of media data-driven assets, including return path data from the four largest MVPDs in the U.S., OTT, VOD, and CTV, and an MRC-accredited digital media consumption service. Comscore has honed this expertise to combine these complex datasets into an impression-based media measurement system. From privacy forward to best-in-class measurement for large and small (but extremely valuable) audiences, this is the approach required for the future of measurement.
While panels have their specific uses, they are not the single source of truth for media behavior (and can no longer be treated as such). Comscore clients understand all of this to be true. More than 70 percent of Comscore’s independent agency clients now use our local television information as currency. Overall, Comscore’s agency business has experienced double-digit year-over-year growth in new business since 2017. As just one example, Spectrum Reach recently announced their decision to transition to Comscore as their preferred source for local audience media measurement currency.
Today, we live in a world enabled by technology. Comscore’s roots as a technology company – and our focus on delivering the world’s premier data-driven TV and digital multi-source measurement system – mean it’s in our corporate DNA to help our clients meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. While none of us has a crystal ball, what we do know is that the landscape will never be static. Comscore is continuing to invest in technology improvements and research rigor to be best prepared for whatever comes next, while having the right solutions today.