The Dying Advantage of Concurrent Viewers

Human attention gatherer” Joe Marchese is a smart guy and a long-time acquaintance. He’s not an old media apologetic, which at least one person is suggesting today, for while he’s currently employed to boost the digital efforts of Fox, he’s been both a network entrepreneur and long-time head of Mediapost, a company that studies new media. So his recent argument — May I Define Your Attention, Please? — that comparisons of television viewing and online views of video are bogus is surprising only in that he doesn’t include why such comparisons are irrelevant in the long run.

To be fair, Joe is responding to the opposing view of venture capitalist David Pakman — May I Have Your Attention, Please? — that makes the case that online “views” are the same as broadcast “audiences,” and he’s right that Pakman is wrong in so doing.

My problem is that the argument is specious, because concurrent viewing, a.k.a. “broadcasting,” is ultimately anachronistic in the digital world, so what’s the point?

It’s true, as Joe states, that using a concurrent model to judge online video views reveals a great weakness in online viewer counts, but it’s also true that when advertisers buy online views, they do so for targeting purposes, not the reach and frequency counts required for the mass marketing model that broadcasting provides. Moreover, and this is incredibly important, technology today is helping people overcome the relentless bombardment of those endless commercial breaks required for reach and frequency measures. Audiences, it would appear, are no longer content with being captive, and so they switch channels, thanks to the convenience of a remote, turn to secondary screens for a few minutes, turn the volume down, or leave the room, to name a few things. Of course, the one that gets the most attention is ad-skipping via DVRs.

The point is that the concurrent model is what’s being disrupted by the network, and as the advertising industry adjusts, those whose core competency depends on reach/frequency models will have to adjust or ultimately go out of business. That may not happen for years, but happen, it will, because the people with the money — the advertisers — are increasingly demanding accountability for where and how they spend all that cash.

Besides, you’ll never encounter Joe Flacco learning how to host a party anywhere else but online (and who wants to miss that?):

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