Research Resurgent

It may seem an odd time to praise the research industry. After all, when it came to the two most significant public votes this year (the EU Referendum here and the US Presidential Election there), the market research industry managed to call both wrong. It’s hardly that they were even multiple choice, both were in effect ‘yes’/‘no’ questions.

For several weeks, back in June the British press was full of polls on whether we were staying or going. My American friends were bombarded by polls, and experts interpreting the polls on what the nation’s voters were thinking about the two very different options open to them.

And in both cases most pollsters, and most experts got it wrong.

The audience measurement end of the market research world has always seemed to me to be something of a poor relation. Heaven knows The MRS, ESOMAR and The ARF are hardly organisations to set the pulses racing, yet even they appear to look down upon their media cousins.

And yet two recent examples indicate that the media research world is vibrant, and is indeed well on the way to tackling the many measurement issues facing a complicated and fast-changing set of challenges.

Earlier this month, at the annual asi TV and Radio Conference in Budapest, the major audience measurement businesses, the likes of Nielsen, Kantar Media, GfK, IPSOS and Mediametrie discussed the latest technological developments within their organisations – developments designed to address a broadcasting world within which viewing takes place both when and where the individual wants it to, and on whatever device he or she chooses.

There was talk of passive measurement techniques, like watches, and of the full integration of any number of datasets to bring the principles of big data analytics to bear on helping users understand the viewing and listening landscape.

The research companies’ clients – the broadcasters and the joint industry bodies – demonstrated how they are managing to juggle the need to adapt and evolve, with the commercial requirement for consistent, predictable, industry-acceptable data.

Not an easy trick to pull off.

Right now judging is well underway in the annual Mediatel Media Research Awards. There have been over 70 entries, from all sorts of quarters – media agencies, trade bodies, research companies, broadcasters, publishers, and out-of-home businesses among them.

The results won’t be announced until next year, but it’s not breaking any confidences to say that the quality of entries is higher than ever, and the range of techniques and approaches used startlingly wide.

The media industry, and more specifically those not directly involved in how we measure what we need to measure is very quick to criticise the trade bodies, and the media research world in general.

What’s the use of samples when we have universe data, cry the digiterati.

And yet the data emerging from trade bodies’ and from individual media organisations’ samples, and the evolution underway at those research companies involved in measuring audiences in one shape or form stack up pretty well against the disarray in online audience measurement

Working hard towards an industry-wide consensus, developing, discussing and sharing has a lot going for it.


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