We're going to hear a lot about comparable metrics this year -- finally. As emerging media platforms continue to dominate the headlines -- creating the perception that ad tech is where all the audience is -- smart advertisers will insist on a lens through which the avalanche of charts, claims, coverage and conversation can be rebalanced.
A perfect case is an infographic published in August by data-tech provider Domo that continues to make the rounds with advertisers, agencies and analysts. The chart counts a sharp rise in the amount of time people devote to digital devices and platforms. According to the chart, in an average minute, people like 4.2 million posts on Facebook, like 1.7 million photos on Instagram, and upload 300 hours of video to YouTube.
Naturally, people will see these seven-figure numbers and think that this is where the consumer herds are running. Domo calls this revelation "staggering." But is it really?
If you factor in currency for TV brands -- based on Nielsen and comScore audience data -- this reveals a broader scale and the degree to which TV is still bigger than all other media in terms of audience time. Comparing TV brands (on all platforms) with the 20 most popular digital destinations, TV brands command 77% of total hours of media consumed.
Keeping with Domo's "every minute" comparisons, people engage with TV brands for 624,731 hours in a single minute. By comparison, they engage 81,299 hours (10%) with Facebook and 35,944 (4%) with YouTube. For millennials (ages 18-34), who are widely (and erroneously) presumed to be forsaking all other media for digital platforms, TV gets 101,432 hours/minute (52%), while Facebook gets 33,194 (17%), Pandora gets 21,557 (11%), and YouTube gets 17,310 (9%).
Websites - comScore, mediametrix multiplatform, October 2015 (P2+).
TV Brands: 590,823 hours on TV + 33,908 hours on TV-branded websites = 624,731 total hours
How the chart looks two years from now depends on one thing -- what and how media engagement is defined, measured and reported. With a single standard that's accurate and representative for both content and platforms, TV will comprise a similar or even larger slice of the attention chart.
How can I say this? When TV networks pull together the far-flung numbers on activity across digital platforms, they invariably find the audience for their popular programs is up, despite Nielsen's challenge in capturing full ratings. People are spending more time with their content across platforms and, importantly, across demos.
Context matters supremely in media; real scale is always relative to total opportunity. Looking through a wider lens with the aid of comparative context reveals the full marketplace and the degree to which established networks now figure prominently online. Any detailed statistical analysis of an all-digital lifestyle that doesn't include TV in all its forms produces a dangerous perspective for anybody betting their career and company on brand sales.