Nielsen, the standard-bearer of media measurement, has been focused on cross platform measurement issues for several years. Their vision, Total Audience: The Future of Audience Measurement, was presented at the conference by Nielsen executives Lynda Clarizio, President of U.S. Media, and Kelly Abcarian, Senior Vice President, Watch Product Architecture.

The market size for media is expanding and measurement must keep pace. Clarizio noted that, “Media usage is increasing overall. There has been a dramatic increase across the U.S. population where 70 hours are spent in an average week consuming media.” Part of the expansion is due to “a significant increase in the use of TV connected devices,” she added. These devices are increasingly being used by younger cohorts, indicating a trend that as the younger generations age, entire behavior patterns of media consumption will shift from the way they look today.

“The industry is coming together in one video marketplace -- one industry,” Clarizio continued. “This has implications for how measurement evolves. We need independent measurement so we can get the full view about what is happening. The metrics need to be the same across platforms. There is confusion now in the industry. When describing performance, in digital it is unique visitors but in television it is average minute audience.”

How can we bring all of the metrics together?  Abcarian explained that there was “a call to action last year to bring total audience to the marketplace and the measurement of ads. Our $75 billion marketplace based on the business rules that underpin C3 and C7 needs to evolve and reflect how content and ads are being distributed.” As a response to the call, Nielsen in December is launching Nielsen Total Content Ratings, which brings together the digital contributions from Nielsen Digital Content Ratings and Nielsen TV Program Ratings and will enable the marketplace to get a full view of media consumption.

“Comparable metrics is very important to ensure that when you combine audiences from linear and digital worlds, the use of metrics can consistently be applied across all platforms,” she said. “We believe these basic measurements can be applied across all platforms in a consistent way -- metrics such as average audience rating, unique reach, average frequency, views and total/average time spent -- and this will be based on Total U.S. population base instead of TV universe.

“Total Content Ratings brings true apples-to-apples comparability to metrics,” Abcarian continued. “We need to insure that there is an independent Nielsen market-wide number across all players that allow someone to have confidence on both the sell side and the buy side to see the true way that TV and digital are being translated.”

We also need to include all platforms. “We want to make sure all platforms are included so that this is truly a ‘Total,’ so that both buyers and sellers could understand the total consumption regardless of platform, ad time, ad load or ad model,” she said. “In addition to traditional linear TV and the digital platforms, we are bringing together all of the viewing including DVR beyond 7 days -- up to 35 days initially, as well as any VOD or Over the Top Viewing if enabled by the content provider.

“One of the most challenging aspects of providing Total Audience is providing a de-duplicated reach across all platforms and ad models,” she noted. “This is a key component that Total Content Ratings will provide so that buyers and sellers can understand how much of that viewing across platforms is truly incremental as well as duplicative. Our goal in Total Content Ratings, as we work with all of our clients in the industry, is to move from a proprietary view to a truly syndicated marketplace view, so that everyone can see everyone else’s data and non-content providers can have a view into the same data set.”

Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings service will be released later this month and into the next year. “We want to dispel the myth that innovation is not happening,” Abcarian said. “We have a twelve to eighteen month Nielsen roadmap of building blocks we have been delivering out to the marketplace to get to total measurement.”

Image courtesy of Corbis.

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