By "TV currency," I don’t mean Nielsen. I mean the method.

Nielsen is a superb research company. Luckily for the industry, there are quite a number of superb research companies in the world. They have survived and thrived on the rigorous training they have received from the industry. What has not killed them has made them stronger. If the rest of industry and government were at the same average level as our research companies, the world would be in wonderful shape.

However, even superb research companies have to live with dollars and cents realities. And it costs a fortune (and risks even greater fortunes) to change the methodology of a currency. The industry in general will not pay for this. Even CIMM, an idea that changes the equation — how much is yet to be seen — merely spends six to low-seven figures to help along good ideas that could become better currencies because of their changed methodologies. And this process is just getting into gear, building its foundations first.

One question is how the industry can do a better job of helping currencies to improve themselves. How urgent is the need to change the methodology? This is the driving meta-question.

Because of TV Everywhere — the proliferation of other screens on which TV is now being viewed and which must therefore be included in the ratings — the common sense answer for the past few years has been, “Of course it is urgent to change the methodology — so as to capture all screen viewing.” The sellers have a more urgent stake in this than the buyers because the more of the audience that can be measured, the more impressions they can sell. But advertisers and agencies have also been fascinated by the new tech phenomenon to the point that technology has emotively reached mythical proportions in everyone’s mind, resulting in more mental energy being allocated to mobile and social than to the hundred times larger-in-current-revenues-base television medium.

This is not a bad thing given the hidden underlying real reason advertisers are so interested in these new platforms. It is actually because they sense that social and mobile are somehow going to turn out to be the keys to the new pull-more-than-push consumer-is-in-control era of marketing and advertising, in which bonding relationships with customers become far more important than GRPs in driving and sustaining brand equity and shareholder value.

Nielsen’s predictable reaction — which is simply good business sense given the money factors described above — is to adapt its existing methodology to measure the new screens. Silo samples, to be currency within each screen medium, and then a small-sample (affordable) overlap panel, allow fusion to put together a simulacrum of a huge singlesource sample. In classical Nielsen style, we can be sure there will be validation proofs that the grand fusion approach duplicates the real singlesource results, and so the added costs of singlesource to replace grand fusion will not be something the industry is willing to pay. This appears to be what Nielsen is planning. The question is how good is it? Is it good enough?

We will take a shot at answering that mighty question in the next exciting post — see you then.

Bill Harvey is a well-known media researcher and inventor who co-founded TRA, Inc. and is its Strategic Advisor. His nonprofit Human Effectiveness Institute runs his weekly blog on consciousness optimization. Bill can be contacted at bill@billharveyconsulting.com

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