In Chapter 10 of 13 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, data analytics expert Ken Rona notes that traditionally, audiences are measured by Nielsen panels, samples which monitor a select number of families and their aggregated viewing patterns. From an analytics perspective, Rona finds it fascinating how media consumption is progressively more digital, which eliminates need to do samples and opens doors to move into census analysis.
Erik: How is the move to digital television affecting analytics and audience measurement? Ken: So in the broadcast world, even as far back as two or three years ago, I mean that’s pretty close in, the way that you measured what was happening is through a panel. Nielsen has a panel of about 15 thousand families that they instrument up and literally monitor what they do, with the families’ permission; I mean families opt in to this panel. They – you know, they come in; they install hardware on your computers, on your televisions; they install microphones to listen what’s happening. That’s how television content providers get paid, right. They sign contracts with their advertisers based on how many Nielsen families are watching their material, by watching the ads and the shows, and the reason why Nielsen does that way is because in a world where – you know, we have analog TV, right, or TV comes over the cable box. It’s about the only thing you have. I mean I think that’s a reasonable method to do it. And Nielsen, obviously, very successful, built a very large business that way. What’s really interesting to me in this – what’s coming down the pipe really fast is people are starting to consume their content on a variety of devices, right. They’re using computers. They’re watching media on their iPhones, their – the iPads. I mean I watch – I probably watch as much television on the iPad as I do as my screen at home because I travel so much. So what’s fascinating from an analytic perspective is as opposed to, I said two or three years ago, where you would – the data was based on this 15 thousand families. You know, you could do the analysis in Excel spreadsheet, right, basically, right. But as people are starting to consume content digitally, we get – we don’t have to do a sample anymore. We can rely on a census, right. When somebody says, hey, I wanna watch The Closer. That comes from our servers and that generates a log, right. It generates a count. So I think that census data is gonna be fascinating, like we’re gonna get a really nice count, and what I said to people is look, the world is moving – it’s moving a little – it’s shifting a bit, away from the kind of traditional media researcher to, you know, someone like me, right, a data analyst.