The Data of it All
Positioned, as Comscore is, at the intersection between the content and advertising sides of the digital ecosystem, we gain a privileged perspective on the way in which the abundant supply of data available to digital businesses is shaping this space.
For our own part, our metered panels of users that number into the millions worldwide, as well as an extensive network of tagged web, video and app entities, generate vast quantities of audience and consumption information that grows in scope and scale with every passing month. To give some sense of perspective, if a megabyte of data were to be represented by a spoonful of sand, Comscore would currently store the equivalent of a stretch of beach 25 miles long, 30 metres wide and a foot deep. And we expect this to double in the next year.
We translate our own observations, along with census profiles provided by partners and a roster of additional inputs, into a total view of digital consumers. The output is a range of trusted, independent metrics to help make audiences and advertising more valuable.
So how has this growing mass of data made a difference to the advertising and media industries this year? Whilst it would be possible to write volumes on this topic in an industry that, by its nature, generates vast amounts of information, here are three key trends that we have observed in 2014.
Trend 1: Understanding the Multi-Platform Majority
Nobody will be surprised to read that mobile devices (by which I refer to both smartphones and tablets) continue to reshape the way that consumers engage with digital content. This evolving footprint is generating swathes of new information that both the content and advertising sides of the ecosystem must consider and act upon. In many global markets, Comscore now observes a clear ‘multi-platform majority’, that is to say that more than 50 per cent of users are online with two or more platforms over the course of a month. Our data also shows that smartphone and tablet devices are not simply replacing desktops, but instead largely adding incremental usage throughout consumers’ days. These new digital touchpoints present many new considerations for all enterprises, with consumers active at different times of the day, and in different mindsets and environments.
In a world that presents not just new platforms, but also new content types such as apps, care must be taken when reconciling the relationships between a single user and consumption on multiple devices (with their own cookies, device IDs, etc.) in order to avoid skews to audience and engagement metrics. We continue to roll out our mobile and multi-platform product sets across our over 40 international markets. Customers are using this person-level information to better understand how they can engage with this growing majority in both commercial and editorial senses, taking advantage of additional touchpoints and managing frequency of communication with users across platforms.
Trend 2: TV and Digital Everywhere
Linked to this first trend is the expanding remit of ‘digital’. The explosive growth of digitally-delivered ‘TV’ content has shifted delivery opportunities for both content and advertising. It has created a need to evaluate content providers from historically quite separate worlds, with traditional broadcasters increasingly offering digital access via multiple devices, and with digital-only access becoming a viable delivery for new content owners and distributors. As media silos merge, it is helpful to be clear about your defined universes; we see three definitions: ‘TV+’ covering broadcast TV and TV content available digitally, ‘Total Video’ covering broadcast TV and all digital video content, and finally ‘Total View’ covering broadcast TV and all digital content, including browsing, video and apps. Naturally, advertisers must also act upon the growing audiences and opportunities in this space.
This, of course, presents new challenges for the data fuelling these ecosystems, and measurement providers on both traditional and digital media are increasingly exploring fusions and methodologies that can deliver a more holistic consumer view in this new landscape. In a cross-platform project with NBC in the U.S., Comscore investigated the change in media minutes for users who consumed Olympics content on various platforms. As with combining multiple digital platforms, the trend was additive, with TV time increasing marginally with each additional platform used by a consumer, and total media time increasing by up to 97% for users who consumed content on TV, desktop, smartphone and tablet.
Trend 3: Automation of Media Buying and Selling
Many markets are rapidly discovering what the increasing automation of both the buy and sell sides of the digital advertising ecosystem will mean for them. Not only is data fundamental to determining the (still human-defined) strategies that precede the transactional elements of these new systems, there is a heightened demand for trusted evaluation of inventory and campaigns that pass through them.
The need to quickly understand the true value of media has, if anything, intensified the need for an independent data source to verify the scale, composition and quality of audiences available, as well as the effectiveness of advertising delivery in hitting target audiences in a brand-safe, in-view and fraud-free manner. From a publisher’s perspective, independent verification of their inventory allows them to quickly demonstrate value and justify a premium against certain placements.
With such an inherently ‘measurable’ medium, the volume of information available has never been an issue. What has become increasingly clear is that trusted systems and methods are needed to accurately combine and synthesise the mass of available data points to deliver insights that represent a real-world view of consumers and their digital interactions.