Benita Chacko

Will integrated news viewership measurement remain a pipe dream?

Experts debate the achievability of integrated measurement in the evolving news consumption landscape.

In the ever-evolving landscape of news consumption, a paradigm shift is evident in consumer behaviour, particularly concerning the platforms through which news is consumed. In the current digital era, where Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube shape the information landscape, a recent Google Kantar study sheds light on a fascinating trend among Indian language consumers. Astonishingly, these consumers use as many as five different platforms to stay abreast of online news.

This diversification of platforms presents a unique challenge for broadcasters, who find themselves not only competing with traditional news channels but also contending with a myriad of news influencers and explainer videos flooding social media. According to the study, a staggering 93% of consumers turn to YouTube for news, while 88% rely on social media, and 82% engage with news through chat apps. The surge in news consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated these shifts in habits. However, with the waning grip of the pandemic, viewership on linear television has receded to single digits, signalling a broader shift in where and how news is consumed.

This dynamic landscape prompts a discussion about the need to adapt measurement and sales strategies to align with the changing patterns of news consumption. In a panel discussion, held at The Future of News 2023, hosted by afaqs!, industry experts debated whether integrated measurement is achievable. The speakers on the panel included Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network; Rajiv Dubey, head of media, Dabur India; Aditi Mishra, CEO, Lodestar UM; Geet Lulla, vice president - sales and head - Asia Pacific, Comscore; and Archana Aggarwal, VP- media, Airtel. 

Aggarwal said that consumers engage with content in diverse ways: seeking quick updates on headlines from one platform, delving into detailed insights on another, and navigating links shared on WhatsApp based on personal interest. 

“As advertisers, our approach aligns with consumer behaviour, spanning programmatic, television, and digital channels. Recognising that viewers still turn to TV for news, while also consuming it digitally on the go, at work, or through various short news platforms, like InShorts, we tailor our strategy to this multi-format landscape. Understanding that consumers may have a preferred platform but explore others for specific needs, our mix includes YouTube, TV, programmatic, and emerging platforms,” she said.

Dubey said that unified measurement is essential for advertisers to compare the cost of reaching a consumer through television versus digital mediums, facilitating informed decisions on effective outreach strategies.

“The crucial goal is to connect with consumers. The primary consideration is the cost-effectiveness of reaching these customers, be it through traditional TV or online platforms. Television, with its extensive viewership, has long been a straightforward avenue, but a notable shift towards digital platforms is evident. Many news outlets have adapted by dual broadcasting on television and online channels,” he said. 

There's a lot of discomfort, especially among news channels, due to flaws in the measurement process. Dubey stressed that BARC needs to address these concerns. 

“The rating system was introduced to overcome mistrust in earlier systems like TAM and INTAM, evolving over the past 30 years. Currently, there is a sense of mistrust around BARC, which requires resolution. The joint effort of ISA, broadcasters, and advertising agencies created BARC eight years ago. To address the existing distrust, these parties must collaborate, reevaluate the panel, identify flaws, and consider refining the entire rating system. There should be no distrust between broadcasters and the rating system,” he added.

Given the current fragmentation in the digital environment, Mishra emphasised the absolute necessity to achieve parity in reaching consumers across diverse platforms. Currently, there is no universally accepted metric for content consumption. This lack of a standardised measurement poses a hurdle in assessing the effectiveness of advertising strategies in the digital landscape.

She feels the challenge lies in the absence of a unified metric for measuring consumption across various platforms. She stressed two key strategies to address this challenge. 

“Firstly, understanding the nuanced differences in consumption patterns across platforms, considering factors such as ad perception and measurement norms. Introducing the concept of equivalence helps in comparing platforms when deciding where to invest. Secondly, rather than replicating identical content, advertisers should work on tailoring content formats to fit specific platforms. A strategic approach involves delivering the same story through multiple pieces tailored to how each medium is consumed,” she said.

While all the panellists agree on the need for an integrated measurement mechanism, the question arises: What prevents us from having it? Do we lack the capability?

As per Lulla, technology is the easiest aspect, with promising developments in cross-media measurement pilots in the US and the UK. The real challenge lies in aligning stakeholders, defining objectives, implementing solutions, and ensuring sustainability. The primary hurdle is people-related.

“Collaboration is vital. No single entity can measure all channels comprehensively. The key to a successful cross-media measurement program involves strong governance, a common methodology, and collaboration to unify diverse individual methodologies,” he said. 

Pandey felt that BARC, a crucial player in integrated mechanisms, should be present on the panel. According to him the core issue in media measurement isn't the lack of technology but the divergence in stakeholder perspectives on technology and methodology. While there are existing measurements in the industry, they remain fragmented. 

“This discord is evident in the varying ad duration definitions—Facebook at two or three seconds, YouTube at 30 seconds, and TV at one minute—posing a challenge in integration. The industry must unite, but achieving consensus seems elusive. The current measurement companies need to establish trust among stakeholders before collaboration can occur,” he stressed.

Watch the full discussion here:

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