4 major digital trends in media research

As published on The Wall on February 26, 2014 by Belinda Barker. Audience measurement used to be about counting eyeballs in the world’s living rooms. But with consumers now lapping up content across multiple screens, the challenge of demonstrating who’s watching what, and what those connections are worth to advertisers, is significantly more complex. In the same way that media owners have diversified to provide cross-platform viewing opportunities, and individuals and brands have become media owners in their own right, so providers of media research are breaking new ground in measuring what really matters to advertisers and media agencies.
The latest in media research was presented at a symposium in London early February hosted by inTV, a group of major international TV channels working together to promote the benefits of international television to the advertising industry. Members include BBC World, CNBC, Euronews, Eurosport, France 24, National Geographic Channel, Sky News and TV5Monde.

1. Omni-screening

Tim Elkington, Research Director of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), described the backdrop of multi-screen consumption against which these developments were emerging. “Goodbye second-screening, hello omni-screening,” he said. “If you’re thinking about the world in terms of two screens, actually, that’s gone, and we need to think about multiple screens.”

The intensity with which people relate to their portable devices was illustrated through the IAB’s RealView research, carried out on behalf of the IAB by the research agency FireFish with input from Dr Simon Hampton from the University of East Anglia’s school of psychology. The research used a fish-eye camera, which respondents wore around their necks andakes a photo every few seconds. When run together at high-speed, the shots provide a video snapshot of someone’s life, complete with all their screen interactions. The extent to which people used their smartphone was a shock even to some of the participants being filmed. The research also measured the frequency of multi-screening and found that two-thirds of people frequently use another device when watching TV. Yet multi-screening is not just about TV plus another screen; 51% of people said they often used a smartphone and a laptop simultaneously.

2. Paying attention

Comscore’s Director Media, James Cameron, said that while audiences were fragmenting, overall media consumption was rising, with second and third-screen use coming largely in addition to television viewing. In research in the US for sports channel ESPN, Comscore found that – in a market with 143 million smartphones and 71 million tablets – users of these devices were spending more time consuming media than those  without connected devices, and were more engaged in what they were doing. For  ESPN, the channel generated 44% additional reach through viewing on non-TV  devices. A rating system that includes viewing for media brands across multiple  devices is in the pipeline.
This echoes the findings of the Ipsos Affluent surveys which I went through in my speaking slot. These showed that in Latin America, for instance, news and business television channels are reaching 6.5% of their affluent target market through TV alone, and an additional 3.4% via digital. For me, this shows that there’s a lot more digital behaviour, but it’s not, largely, at the expense of traditional media.
Elkington said this was all good news for advertisers. “Omni-screening is a big opportunity for brands. Brands have got as much right as traditional media owners to create content.”
And creating they are, as Mark Adams, Director at audience development agency The Audience said. Celebrities are becoming cross-platform publishers with huge public followings that, just like a traditional magazine publisher, can be harnessed by advertiser brands. The William Morris talent management network, which represents vast numbers of A-list celebrities, reaches one billion consumers with content per month, and their following is growing by about a million fan connections every 48 hours. Even Dory the fish from Disney’s Finding Nemo film has 28 million fans on Facebook, Adams said, figures that would be the envy of many consumer product brands. “The brand voice is dramatically less conductive than that of the correct social influencers. Brands creating conversations is pretty futile; pop culture flows anyway,” he said. Brands paired with the right celebrities and the right moments can create magical  connections in their millions, though.
The potential reach of different social networks was put into perspective by Tom Smith, founder of GlobalwebIndex, which tracks comparable web data across 32 countries. He pointed out that in the West, many networks that are huge in emerging markets are frequently overlooked. WeChat, which has the majority of its users in China and Southeast Asia, has grown its number of active users by 379% outside China in the past six months alone. Google Plus, dismissed as a flop by many Western commentators, has a strong footing in the East. Other data show the depth of opportunity for content creators and advertisers using social media globally. Smith’s data showed that Indonesia is the world’s most active Facebook and Twitter market, while China is the most active e-commerce market. In the past month, more people have streamed films in India than in the five biggest EU markets combined, and Russia has three times more bloggers than the UK.

3. Click and collect

Dan Calladine, Head of Futures with Carat Global Management, said it was fascinating to see how the changing media world was fuelling creativity in data collection and analysis. As the opportunities to consume media continue to grow, the research industry is having to think differently; simply adding another raft of questions to a survey is an obsolete approach.
We can no longer afford to treat respondents as commodities we can mine for data,” said Bill Doris, Head of Insight with Havas Media UK. “Passive measurement is going to be really important over the next few years.”
Jim Ford, Global Development Director at Ipsos, described how the MediaCell TV project is already commercially deploying personal passive metering via smartphone, using an inaudible watermark in TV programming that’s picked up by an app on a handset, and the data sent to a central server every few hours.
Simon McDonald, Business Director Media and Entertainment at InSites Consulting, said quick-fire surveys were still valuable, but tasks that required respondents to do something – either socially with other consumers, or in collaboration with brands – were the future. Online “villages” where respondents give reasons for their views and can react to other people’s answers elicited great insights in a way that was engaging for those taking part. Review-writing exercises and ideation tools, allowing consumers to make suggestions to brands and to co-create with them, were also promising.
Fans are talking about you all the time,” McDonald said. “Eight out of 10 brand fans tell you they really want to help the brands they have a relationship with. Heineken ran a Consumer Consulting Board running across 20 countries to help them design a nightclub of the future. Consumers are the most effective consultants for your company. The onus is on researchers to really reinvent our toolbox and really collaborate with consumers in the longer term.”

Researchers must also spare a thought for the agencies who work with their results; Nick Hiddleston, Research Director Worldwide with ZenithOptimedia, said four data analysts are employed in the agency’s worldwide team. They take advantage of the wealth of data that is readily available to model, and enhance the agency’s strategic planning. Bill Doris said the influx of data from so many sources measuring so many different aspects of media consumption was fascinating but at times overwhelming. “You get thrown so much different data, it’s a real struggle to keep up.” He said it required agility on the part of data analysts, and a real focus for agencies and clients on the measures of their success.

4. Consumer-eye view

Other progressive approaches to media research employ new technology to see what consumers are really watching, and also how they feel about it. Nigel Foote is the UK Director of tech company Sticky, which uses webcam-based eye tracking to monitor how consumers absorb content and advertising. It can track where people look on a screen and in what order, their dwell time on each area, and which parts of a page, site or video are being ignored altogether, giving clients the information they need to  optimise their content and reduce wastage. “Being visible is not the same as being seen,” Foote said.
Realeyes, meanwhile, monitors physiological changes in consumers as they watch content or advertising, including tiny changes in their facial expressions. Realeyes CEO Mihkel Jäätma has used the technique to predict – with 75% accuracy – successful entries to the Cannes Lions advertising awards based on the intensity and timing of different emotions they invoke. Facial expressions of basic emotions are consistent across cultures. “Creativity has been hard to measure, until now,” Jäätma said. “Consumers love emotional content.” Ads with optimised emotional triggers were more effective; they got three times the average number of people viewing an ad all the way through, eight times the average click-through rate, and 20 times the number of  conversions from views into social actions.The future of media measurement to some extent will depend on the future of media consumption. The symposium heard that in the past month, 100 million people worldwide had accessed the internet  via their television set, providing the “lean back” experience of viewing from  the sofa, but with all the content that the internet has to offer.
What comes next is yet to be understood. A simple plug-in device like Google’s Chromecast (pictured), which turns a regular television into a web-connected TV, could be transformational. “Most people just go home, put the TV on and watch TV as its broadcast,” said Carat’s Dan Calladine. “When you make it really easy for people to see web content on TV, that will be really liberating. That could suddenly change an awful lot of things.”
As media and technology continue to evolve at breakneck speed, events like the inTV symposium are an essential element in helping media owners and advertisers alike to understand what these changes mean to them. As Sonia Marguin, Research Director, Euronews said, “As an industry, we are having to evolve at break-neck speed; understanding how content is consumed across different platforms is vital for all media brands. The channels within the inTV group are at the forefront of high-quality video content delivery. We not only need to keep pace with these changes, but share that knowledge with our agency and client partners.”

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