Multiplatform World: Wakshlag Says Industry Creating 'Frankenmetrics' to Measure Usage

New York – Turner Broadcasting System chief research officer Jack Wakshlag said the TV industry is creating a series of complicated, useless “Frankenmetrics” to measure viewer habits for linear television, online video and VOD when three simple questions would give advertisers and content providers the answers they want.

“There are three things we have to start with – how many, how often and how long,” Wakshlag said at the keynote address at the Multichannel News/B&C "TV in a Multiplatform World" conference here Thursday. “If I don’t have each, I don’t have anything to start with. ...Those are the three metrics at the fundamental core."

With those three answers, he said a company can calculate share, reach and frequency and time spent.

But Wakshlag added that capturing the data for those three simple metrics isn’t easy because measurement companies don’t work together. That forces content companies to create “Frankenmetrics” or hybrids of measurement company data to fit their needs.

Wakschlag credited the term "Frankenmetrics" to Fox executive Sherry Brennan.

Wakshlag pointed to Nielsen data as an example. Nielsen provides a product that links a tagged ad to a viewer's Facebook page, from where it can accurately capture the age and sex of the viewer. But if that viewer watches an ad on You Tube – which is owned by Facebook rival Google – that data is not available. So Nielsen can provide data that says a particular ad had 1 million impressions, 700,000 of which were from the 18-49 year-old demographic. But if that ad was also shown on You Tube, Nielsen doesn’t capture it.

That forces content providers to create their own "Frankenmetric" for a cross platform deal using Nielsen for the demographic ad impressions, an online campaign rating product from another vendor for online data while cobbling together data on their own for You Tube and mobile viewership.

“That’s where this industry is right now,” Wakshlag said. “Instead of making babies, we’re creating Frankensteins.”

Wakshlag added that reliable online data seems to be the most difficult to obtain, a problem that could be solved by cooperation between content providers.

“We know the next day what everybody else did last night,” Wakshlag said. “I can produce a report on how CBS, Fox and hundreds of other networks did, but I can’t do that online because Nielsen and comScore choose to report their data on a monthly basis.”

Programmers could solve that problem by sharing the immense piles of data each compiles on their own online content, much in the way that telephone companies share network data to ensure continued connections during disruptions in service.

“I think the future of this business is not going to go very far, very fast if we don’t share data," Wakshlag said. "We [Turner] will share data with anyone who wants to share data.”

Wakshlag also pointed to research done at Turner parent Time Warner Inc.’s Media Lab in New York, which has shattered some previously held notions on viewing habits.

“Embrace the facts,” Wakshlag said. “People have these devices and they don’t shut them off when they are watching TV.

Wakshlag also warned against people in the media industry looking to their own habits and those of their children when trying to gauge viewing trends. He stressed that media people are not normal.

He cited a recent study of 50 media professionals by TouchPoint that showed that 92% used media apps each day (versus 25% for normals); 25% used a tablet (vs. 9% for normals) and 42% listened to the radio (vs. 80% for normals).

“We need to use research to know what people in Pennsylvania are doing,” Wakshlag said. “We don’t need research to tell us what your kids are doing. We have to make business decisions  based on facts.”