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NATPE 2011: Nielsen close to telling clients results of integrated set-top data tests

Nielsen next month will release research to its clients discussing the results of tests in which it integrated data gathered from local set-top boxes in three markets - Reno, Nev., Greenville, S.C., and St. Louis - with information gleaned from locally-conducted panels and diaries, said Cheryl Idell, executive vice president of media product leadership after a panel on next-generation television measurement at NATPE in Miami on Tuesday (Jan. 25).
The tests were launched last summer, and held in the three markets because each market represents one of Nielsen's data-gathering methods. In St. Louis, Nielsen uses local people meters; in Greenville, set-top meters; and in Reno, diaries.
"We want to gather hybrid data that's able to answer our clients' business questions, including who is watching, and to help us and our clients understand how to connect that to what's happening online," says Idell. "We see a world where these techniques are knitted together."
Nielsen's market samples in these three markets were much bigger than are typically employed, but that's necessary in this new world of highly targeted media measurement, said panelists, which included Mark Piesanen, Google's director of strategic partner development; Cathy Hetzel, president of advanced media and information for Retrak; and David Burch, communications director for TubeMogul.
"The next generation of television measurement will have to be as specific as measuring the audience of recreational vehicle owners who earn more than $250,000 per year and give a lot to charity," said Google's Piesanen. Google is developing its own video ad sales platforms. Through AdWords, Google currently allows people to launch a video commercial on Google's platform for as little as $20.
While the digital set-top boxes that are in almost every house today helps with that assessment, set-top box data only tells part of the story. Research firms need to integrate that data with other information to determine a clear picture of who's watching what content.
"The sample size has to be extremely large in order to measure small audiences and subsections of audiences," said Piesanen. "You need to have an enormous sample size to measure that subsample size accurately. I think you will need to do data mergers and fusions with third party data sets to get accurate insights into the composition of households. The box doesn't say who is watching."
Nielsen also is preparing to test research methods that will measure how a television show performs across platforms. In April, it will launch phase one of these tests, tracking a show's performance across platforms when every airing contains exactly the same content and same advertisements. In phase two, Nielsen will track the same program across platforms, even when it does not contain the same advertising, said Idell.
Down the road, Nielsen wants to be able to rate advertisements, separate from the shows that surround them, and expects to incorporate social media into its data-gathering, says Idell.
"We see a future down the road where other tools and techniques can get integrated. There will be an app for that or there will be social networking," she says. "Ten years ago, people sneered at gathering data online, but now we believe that social networking and apps and things like that will open up new research techniques to get new research information."