With the explosion of content that can be viewed anytime, anywhere, and on any device, local TV stations are not immune from the effects of increased competition. Since audience size is an important component of advertising sales, accurate measurement across platforms is critical. Many believe traditional ratings systems no longer provide the level of audience insight local outlets need in order to help advertisers create real relationships with their customers, according to Vision Critical.
Local TV stations have been vocal about the problem. WCVB in Boston, for example, has long claimed its viewership is larger than its Nielsen ratings indicate, while Fox Television Stations Group considered dropping Nielsen altogether in 2014. Local media outlets aren’t the only unhappy ones, either. In 2015, CNBC dropped Nielsen for audience measurement, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The ratings firms are working to rectify the problem. Nielsen has announced it will roll out Total Audience Measurement in March 2017—this will measure across platforms and combine data into a common metric. For its part, comScore merged with Rentrak and will now offer xMedia, which will provide person-level reporting across screens. Additionally, comScore will provide local advanced demographic ratings and advanced automotive ratings to all local stations in Columbus, Ohio, half the local stations in Indianapolis, and stations in other markets, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Fort Smith-Fayettville, Arkansas.
In this era of fragmentation and technology, advertisers want more than just numbers; they want to know who’s watching and what they like.
So what are local TV stations to do? Some media companies, including Radio One, are using platforms that connect advertisers with communities in order to get feedback and audience insight. Because while ratings show what viewers are watching, they don’t illustrate why and they don’t predict future audiences—they only paint a picture of what has already happened in the past, Vision Critical says. Local media outlets are in a prime position to create invaluable relationships. By using real-time feedback, content and campaign strategy testing, and co-creating stories with the audience, they can offer advertisers business intelligence and, therefore, deliver more value.
With an audience insight platform, the local TV station would put together a valued group of viewers (a target audience) who agree to be consulted on a variety of topics. Returning to the example of Radio One, which operates 50 broadcast stations, the company set up a community of 10,000 viewers of whom it can ask specific questions about products or campaigns. The goal is to help advertisers connect with African-American consumers, who make up the majority of Radio One’s audience. The insights gained through this program have allowed Radio One to represent the needs of consumers to advertisers and offer data-driven advice.
Social Media Struggles
Approximately 61 percent of social media marketers named measuring return on investment for social media their biggest issue this year, according to eMarketer. At the same time, local stations have realized that if they can accurately monitor their presence on social media, they can better incorporate that avenue into their overall ratings pictures. A measurement plan should start by setting goals and defining the audience, according to an article by The Weather Company. Know who the desired viewers are before choosing metrics and then select three to five metrics—like Facebook video views—for measuring each goal.
Programmatic platforms can also enable local stations to help advertisers make informed, data-driven decisions and more effectively connect creative messaging to consumers. By culling data from across media, a programmatic solution can not only target a desired audience, but allow the advertiser to follow them across screens.