Media Frenemies Gather to Share Concerns About Data

This past week I attended an off-the-record client meeting of executives from media companies AMC, A&E, NBCU, Google, Scripps, Univision, WWE and Viacom and measurement companies Nielsen, comScore and TiVo. It was convened by Gary Zander, President of Project One, to have a frank discussion about media analytics – current challenges and possible solutions – among, as Zander pointed out, “frenemies in an environment of coopertition.”

Zander’s company focuses on digital tech consulting and staffing for the Media Industry.. “This is an opportunity to discuss topics of importance. In this case it is media and TV/video analytics. No one will be quoted in the press so we can have an open dialogue,” he noted. In writing this article, I agreed to not name names and only report non-attributed opinions. I could, however, report on the opening presentation titled, Measurement in a Multiplatform World, by Lisa Ciancarelli, President of Quark Insights Consulting.

Measurement in a Multiplatform World
Ciancarelli launched into an overview of what companies need to do to formulate a comprehensive data measurement strategy. “We need to be more hands on when it comes to all of the distribution paths that our content takes,” she stated, and offered the following steps:

      1.       Define key stakeholders. Get the right people involved. Create a task force with representatives from all areas.
      2.       Focus on what drives your business. Prioritize the scope and cost. “You may not need to measure everything,” she counseled, “There are costs associated with measurement such as data transports, API, transcoding and for the services that scale by the amount of content.”
      3.       Define your business rules around the data and document them.
      4.       Set up measurement requirements and communicate across the company from ad sales and marketing to operations, engineers and content creators. If it doesn't need measurement, take it off the table.
      5.       Managing measurement by managing expectations. The only constant in digital measurement is change.

Off-The-Record Q&A
After the formal presentation, the meeting was open to a full discussion of data driven media. Here were the top points:

·       Walled Gardens are confounding data aggregation across platforms. “Every new platform comes up with its own metric,” was one complaint. “How do you know if the data is worth integrating?” and “There is no consistency across data sources,” were others.

·         Taxonomy across platforms is lacking. There is no standard content identification protocol. “A unique indicator doesn't exist’” said one executive. “We had to hire a third party aggregator so every product has its own unifier id and it does the mapping,” offered another.

·         How can the data be normalized? “We look at the data by minutes and then we have to model. It is incredibly complicated,” shared an executive. “What is a video impression on OTT for example?” questioned another. 

·         Measuring beyond minutes and views. “When does quality (like attention) get measured?” someone asked. “There is a universal truth,” another countered, “and that is that more attention is paid the closer the screen is to your face.” And yet, “Digital is very solitary,” someone stated, “I would rather see people co-viewing. We are losing that aspect if we just count views.” Another noted, “We look at retention rates. Do they come back? Is there viewing through commercial? We are looking at the user experience more holistically and using various points of engagement for attention.”

·         Tagging – from loading time to the time it takes to add tags. “One of the biggest problems we have is with tags,” one participant noted, “especially piggybacking and container tags.” Another stated, “If we want to place extra tags on a clients’ website, it takes two years.” 

·         Reconciliation of metrics across platforms. “We are living in a world of exactitude and we need to reconcile engagement on digital with Nielsen measurements,” someone noted. “What do you mean by engagement? Is engagement equal across platforms?” said another.

·         Fraud. “Forty percent of activity can be non-human traffic which is a huge deal,” someone offered and added, “It is not getting worse but it is not getting any better.” Another said, “It is a wack-a-mole game. You are getting cheated. TV is totally controlled but on the internet it is easy to set up a farm and have crazy stuff going on.”

·         Prioritization. The amalgam of data has become a focus unto itself. “We are spending too much time counting and not enough time strategizing,” one complained.

The solutions to the above are still be explored. Some conceded that “walled gardens and syndicated measurement will both be here for the foreseeable future,” while others are taking unusual and creative steps to bring data analysis into the 21st century with “the gamification of data charts,” because “traditional PowerPoint doesn't really work when there are so many dimensions to analyze.” Whatever evolves from these conversations will benefit more than just those in the meeting. The first step is always opening up dialogue.

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