Trusting ad measurements, or not

Joe Mandese is the editor of MediaPost, the company that produces MediaDailyNews and Online News Daily, among others. Today, Joe offers a couple of stories that must have made a guy like him sit back and chuckle.

In one, Nielsen announces that its adding 600,000 households to the TV universe in the US, a half a percent boost (from 109.6 million TV households to 110.2 million).

While the expansion is statistical–part of a periodic recalibration of the TV household population made by Nielsen to ensure that it is in balance with the overall U.S. population–it at least suggests that TV outlets have a greater audience upside than they did a year ago.
Ah, the old periodic recalibration. This is kind of like printing money, isn’t it? We start to run out, so we print some more. I mean, if the universe expands, then a percentage of that universe likewise expands, which means we can charge more for ads. And, after all, that’s what Nielsen’s audience measurement is all about.

But wait, there’s the second story from Joe. It seems that Madison Avenues’s research wing, the Advertising Research Foundation, has completed a study that says, among other things, that “none of the major media have audience measurement methods that are adequate for the way people use those media today.”

The study, dubbed a “Survey of Industry Concerns,” is based on the responses of 507 people who attended the (Accountability of Audience Measurement) forum in January, and gives poor grades to the methods that are the basis of advertising planning and buying for TV, radio, print media, and the Internet.
Well, there ya go, folks. None of it can be trusted anyway. Who knew?

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