Anytime Anywhere measurement

June 27, 2006 by Dave Haynes

Read this in Media in Canada today:

Nielsen Media Research is developing and deploying technology to measure all of the new ways consumers watch TV today, including over the Internet, out-of-home viewing, and via personal mobile devices such as cellphones and iPods. The A2/M2 (Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement) initiative announced last week by New York-based NMR will ultimately provide ratings for TV regardless of the platform on which it is viewed.

Mike Leahy, president of Nielsen Media Research Canada, says that while most of the technology testing will take place south of the border, once the measurement components are ready to go, the Canadian industry will have it either through NMR or as part of the highly anticipated BBM Nielsen Media Research joint venture company, which is expected to be operational in time for the 2007 television season.

“They want to, as they say, follow the video,” he says, of the new effort. “They want to make sure we can capture anybody, anywhere – and credit the exposure whatever that exposure is – to commercial content, to programming – and where that exposure occurs.”

Some key components of the A2/M2 initiative include the development of new meters to measure video viewed on portable media devices, adding OOH measurement to people meter samples, and creating new research for measuring viewer engagement in TV programming.

To accelerate the process of bringing new systems to market, Nielsen has created ongoing test panels of households recruited and managed in the same way as its existing samples. These will include participants leaving Nielsen’s household panel at the conclusion of their maximum two-year tenure.

In the area of integrating TV and Internet measurement, NMR and Nielsen/Net Ratings are working together to introduce new services, with the latter setting up a system for tracking and reporting digital audio and video delivered via the Internet and the former adding Internet television measurement to its people meter samples next year. This will create a single panel to measure the relationship among TV viewing, website usage and streaming video consumption. This summer NMR will also install and test software meters on PCs and laptops of its people meter panelists leaving its household panel and will fully deploy these meters to the full sample during the 2007/08 broadcast season.

As a precursor to introducing the single-sample Internet/TV panel, fused data combining the viewing results from matching respondents in the TV and Internet panels will be available beginning this summer. (In 2008, the firm will also be introducing a variation of its Active/Passive meter – now in field testing – that is placed next to the TV to collect TV on/off and program information.)

When it comes to out-of-home viewing, a new measurement test, involving two different personal meters designed to capture audio signatures, will begin this fall. One device places the technology in cellphones and the other resembles an MP3 player.

And to track portable media devices, the company is creating device-neutral Solo Meters that can be used with any portable media system. For platforms using a wireless, Bluetooth connection, a small wireless meter is in development, while wired systems will be measured through a small in-line meter inserted between the device and its earphones.

Meanwhile, a pilot program to help lay the groundwork for engagement metrics is in the works. Metered households will be participating in telephone surveys designed to measure commercial recall and qualitative engagement factors for the programs they watch. The results of the survey will be published this fall, at which time NMR will decide the next steps, including additional research or the launch of a specific engagement product.

What’s missing here, of course, is any reference to the massive audiences that will develop over time with advertising-based and retail media networks. Legitimized audience measurement has been a major, major growing pain for most of the start-up companies in this space, and if standards are developed and accepted, that can only help.

The peril, of course, is that some of the networks out there will show numbers that might actually hurt their selling efforts.

The move by Nielsen is interesting because I suspect it reflects that company’s acknowledgement that the whole dynamic has shifted, and basing your business primarily around people watching TV in their homes overlooks much of what’s happening in media these days.

Presumably, they’d lump in digital signage networks as part of their Anywhere measurement. The out of home people, like the the Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau, are already getting active in this industry.

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