Much of the talk around the media business — that is the part that lives or dies based on ratings and rankings — is about the merger between comScore and Rentrak. The companies agreed to combine forces with the goal of producing a digital and video-based, media-focused research company.
While some of the this is couched from the point of view of someone who once worked for a comScore competitor, there are some notable things to consider about this alliance. The elevator pitch summary of the deal is that it is a “rising tide” event that will force everyone in the data-driven business to push harder, develop more customer-centric products and do it all with video in mind. That’s all good news.
The deal will not represent even a glancing blow to Nielsen’s existing business. The research firm scored CBS and its “All Access” product as a client for its Digital in TV Ratings measurement. In the past, once one network jumped on board with a new service, others were likely to follow suit. At that point, with a critical mass of major players in the fold, advertisers and marketers were likely to push that service to the front of the measurement line. But that was “in the past,” so there are no guarantees that follow-the-leader in audience measurement will work that way in the brave new world of streaming, OTT and fast-twitch, socially-empowered online video.
But here is where things go kerflooey (that’s a technical term). All parties involved in the digital video economy will agree that the industry needs solid, reliable metrics based on standards all can agree on. In addition, how transparent will the key parties (comScore/Rentrak and Nielsen) want to be to sure their adherence to a common video ratings lingua franca?
Keep in mind that the digital media ratings business has come a long way since Nielsen handed out rating books or my former employer (NetRatings) had panels of online users put a tracker on their computers. Today, a good ratings report needs to be so granular that it must be presented to a media buyer with a data science background. Data that is a few hours old is no longer considered of value, and if does not contain a deep social network component, it’s yesterday’s news. Want to see the new standards for data? Check out Zignal Labs’ new Command Center product. Let’s see comScore/Rentrak and Nielsen top that.
And while we’re on the topic, a measurement issue that bothers me is the number of agencies and marketing firms (not to mention product companies and service producer) who produce their own data and send it out to decision makers. Yes, I understand many live by the “Chinese Wall” concept where a company can ethically operate businesses that seem to be self-serving. Even with all the caveats and disclaimers, I find such efforts to be tricked-out marketing schemes.
Long live audience measurement. I say let the pros do it.