Down with diaries: Nielsen modernizes

Research firm axes paper method, adds internet to measurement samples

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The media-measurement system upon which the $65 billion TV advertising market is bought and sold is chucking paper diaries and moving into the internet age.

Buyers, networks and researchers cheered last week's move by Nielsen Media Research to expand electronic TV measurement and add internet use to its national and local people-meter samples.

"It's a bold timeline and a really ambitious slate of projects," said Colleen Fahey Rush, exec VP-research at MTV Networks. "It's exactly what Nielsen needs to take on."

The move follows an upfront in which the focus has been on buying both on-air and online TV properties. Nielsen purports that agencies will be able to use the data in their planning tools to "optimize combined TV/internet campaigns." It will begin testing the system this summer and aims to fully deploy it in the 2007-2008 broadcast season.

"There's a lot of appetite for this data to come from Nielsen," Ms. Fahey Rush said. And given Nielsen's NetRatings service, she said, it's "well-positioned to do it right."

Nielsen dubbed the initiative "Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement"-or A2/M2-and promised electronic measurement of all media platforms, including MP3 players, cellphones, online video and out-of- home TV viewing.

Under the plan, Nielsen will eliminate paper diaries by 2011 and expand its local people-meter service from the top 10 markets to the top 25, representing half the U.S. population. Nielsen also will try to replace the paper diaries it uses in smaller markets with some sort of electronic meters or at least internet diaries, depending on size of the market. Eliminating paper diaries will mean the end of sweeps and potentially higher cooperation rates from members of the sample.

The diary system was designed for a three-network world, not the multichannel media environment we live in today, research executives said. And there are lots of dollars based on the antiquated system, pointed out Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research for Horizon Media. "Local TV," he said, "is tens of billions of dollars-more than broadband video, iPods and video on mobile devices."

Ira Sussman, VP-research and insights at Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, said the news is especially important for cable and more niche programs. "Wherever there's a diary methodology being used, we're losing who is watching a lot of smaller-rated programs because people record [in diaries] what they remember most and those are generally the higher-rated programs."

Nielsen also will install Nielsen/NetRatings measurement software on the PCs and laptops of its national and local people-meter samples to create a single-source measurement system that helps marketers know what people do in the course of a day.

As previously announced, Nielsen also will begin measuring out-of-home viewing in bars, restaurants, hotels and airports. It will begin this fall to test two "personal meters"-one that places metering technology in cellphones and another that resembles an MP3 player.

Nielsen's plan:

* Eliminate paper diaries by 2010

* Add internet measurement to people meter samples

* Include out-of-home TV viewing

* Measure portable media devices

* Launch engagement research
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