Thursday, June 4, 2009
Could Twitter Replace Nielsen?
By Dave Morgan I'm living in the TV world these, spending my time trying to better understand television viewership patterns and how to improve the TV experience for viewers. Since I've spent the better part of the past 18 years in the online world, I am always looking for linkages between the online world and the television world, from anticipating an Internet Protocol-driven television future to leveraging Web services to better predict or influence actual television viewership.
Relative to the latter, my team has been spending a lot of time lately analyzing Twitter data to try to see if it could be useful in better understanding how people view television, since so many people regularly tweet about their TV viewing activities. The results have been interesting, but what was most eye-opening was the amount of interest and discussion that was generated in comments when the results were released on a popular technology finance blog, Fred Wilson's AVC (Disclosure: Fred is an investor in my company, Simulmedia).
What came through the strongest among the 100+ comments was whether Twitter might be able to replace Nielsen and other audience measurement services, or whether Twitter data might even be able to replace set-top-box data as a source for census-based television viewership. Could Twitter someday replace Nielsen ratings, or set-top-box data? In my view, it's too early to tell, but here are some of the advantages that it might offer:
Real-time results. What Twitter lacks in precision, it certainly makes up for in real time. Tweets tell you what people are doing in the moment. You don't have to wait hours or days or weeks for results. As more and more marketing becomes real-time, so must the tools that enable it.
Intention data. Twitter can not only tell you what people are doing, but why. Understanding intentions and motivations can take a lot of guess work out of marketing and media.
it's a focus group/survey tool on steroids. Twitter lets you watch, interact and survey lots of different types of people very quickly and very efficiently. The survey and focus group business will never be the same once companies learn how to leverage Twitter here.
Authenticity. Twitter today is as wide open and uncontrolled as TV panels are closed and controlled. Neither is ideal, but having both means that we're all more likely to find out the truth about viewers over time.
It's free. Yes. Hard to beat this one. Companies can tap into Twitter for free. I suspect that Twitter will find ways to charge for premium services and uses over time; now, however, it is free.
Is Twitter the new black when it comes to consumer marketing research? Should Nielsen and others be worried? What do you think?
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Dave Morgan is the CEO of Simulmedia. Previously, he founded and ran both TACODA and Real Media.
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