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Five Ways to Prepare for the Audience Measurement Revolution

The rapid diversification of content consumption across platforms has outpaced the ability of the audience measurement industry to accurately capture and quantify it. But efforts to narrow that gap are accelerating.

From the upcoming merger of comScore and Rentrak to the introduction of Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement, and from Comcast’s use of its set-top box data for new products to the emergence of Samba.TV, the urgent need to better understand and measure how content is being consumed is driving innovation like never before.

But beyond the availability of more granular data and better targeting capabilities, what will the evolution of audience measurement mean to our industry and what, if anything, should you be doing today to prepare?

The natural inclination to sit back and wait till the dust settles is understandable – but it runs the risk of having the dust settle on you. As an organization that represents the needs of both the buyers and sellers of advertising, and as a catalyst to new measurement research initiatives, CIMM is an advocate for encouraging end users of media measurement to be active in pushing for new solutions.

So, to ensure that audience measurement as it develops uniquely benefits you and that you are best prepared to take advantage of it as it evolves, here’s what you need to do now.

(1) Stay Informed

It’s easy to view the audience measurement development scrum as akin to the type of wonkish policy debates that take place in the halls of government. But just as policy decisions can leave you scrambling once they are made, so, too, might audience measurement technology development leave you playing catch-up once a clear direction is defined.

There will be no bell that rings when audience measurement technology is “developed.” This will be a rolling process, with critical insights – and probably many assumption-busting revelations – along the way. You need to keep apprised of these so that you can begin to consider what, if any,adjustments to the marketing mix need to be made as cross-platform consumption “truths” are revealed. The risk of not doing so is to constantly play from behind.

(2) Get Involved

What are the unique insight and measurement needs you require to better understand your audience’s content consumption patterns? Don’t assume that the various entities involved in development have your needs covered. The only way to assure that is to speak up and work with the various measurement companies and associations to share the unique experience and appreciation you have for your specific target audience.

(3) Prepare for Change

While the future course of audience measurement may not yet be known, undoubtedly it will bring about some very new and surprising insights about viewer behavior, challenging long-held beliefs. Often times, such closely held beliefs can hinder the ability to see emerging indications of new behavior patterns. Similarly, well established ways of doing things can inhibit technology adaptation.

Begin to foster a culture that embraces and can facilitate change, because much of what we know and how we approach it will be challenged as true cross-platform measurement emerges.

(4) Open Lines of Communication

The relationship between advertisers and media sellers is changing. As audience measurement becomes more granular and complete – identifying individuals as well as households and accounting for more and more unduplicated viewers – the way publishers structure and charge for access to those audiences will evolve.

To ensure that such future arrangements are beneficial to both parties, it is best for media buyers and sellers to engage now in a dialogue where forward-looking assumptions and possibilities are opened for input, debated and at least understood.

(5) Embrace Openness

For truly effective cross-platform measurement to take place, a degree of standardization, cooperation and openness will need to occur. Whether it be an open standard for identifying video content and ads, or the need for common metrics to make comparisons of exposure across platforms, the future of audience measurement will be about openness and cooperation.

For an industry that is highly competitive, cooperation does not come easily, but the most effective technologies and methodologies will never work if there is not cooperation. Those companies that can understand cooperation and openness will thrive in the future of audience measurement, so best now to foster that type of culture.

Jane Clarke is CEO and managing director of CIMM, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement.