Television and the ravages of time-shifting

In this installment of Michael Carney’s Marketing Week:

  • As TV watching habits change, audience measurement is changing with it.
  • Is social buzz leading to more ka-ching? Nielsen says ‘meh, not really’.
  • Online video is hot. And B2BTV hopes to tap into it for the New Zealand market.
  • Can our internet infrastructure actually handle the iPad?
  • Whitcoulls launches an e-reader. But, without cellular connectivity, will it be able to compete?
  • Data-driven coupons show their worth.
  • Survey your way to a fitter, healthier marketing you, and expand your mind by getting a spot in the third Social Media Marketing Course.

The Changing Face of NZ Television Audience Measurement

As those of you with a MySky, MyFreeview or TiVo box in your homes will attest, viewing habits change significantly when you have a Personal Video Recorder (PVR). Time-Shifted Viewing (whether by a few seconds or a few weeks) becomes your primary television-watching method and “live” television becomes a rarity. PVR-enabled homes exhibit lots of other evolved viewing tendencies as well. And, as you might imagine, current TV audience measurement reporting doesn’t capture those changed behaviours very well.

As New Zealand PVR penetration nears 20 percent, it’s time for a change. Nielsen, which has been keeping close watch on television habits, last week unveiled its plans for a new TAM (Television Audience Measurement) methodology, due to launch during 2011.

The new offering will capture Time-Shifted Viewing in the first instance, but will also be as future-proofed as possible to measure Kiwi viewing as we migrate to the increasingly diverse range of devices now available out there (iPad, Mobile, Internet TV, XBox, PS3, yadda yadda yadda).

Key elements of the Nielsen presentation:

  • The number of NZ homes in the Nielsen panel will increase from 500 to 600 homes
  • New UNITAM (Universal Television Audience Measurement) devices will be installed, initially in those homes with PVRs (i.e. approximately 20% of the total sample)
  • Reporting will expand from “Live” to encompass Playback
  • Playback is separated into “As Live” (same day) and “Time Shifted” (playback within seven days)
  • Only viewing taking place at standard speed playback will be included in total viewing — “Trick” mode activity is excluded – pause, fast-forward, rewind
  • Nielsen’s chosen technnology solution is UNITAM, which uses sophisticated audio matching technologies to measure all viewing to all reported channels on all TV sets in panel homes

Once the UNITAM solution is implemented, two ratings datasets will be delivered each day

Live + “As Live” ratings

  • Consolidated figures
  • These developments will change the “currency” of television audience measurement — but it’ll also provide results that more closely reflect today’s (and tomorrow’s) television viewing realities.

Just Because They’re Talking About You Doesn’t Mean You’re Popular

You’d be forgiven for thinking that today’s holy marketing grail is to be talked about (a lot) in social media. Unfortunately, social buzz doesn’t necessarily translate into either attention or sales.

That discontinuity has now been clearly illustrated thanks to a just-released US report from Networked Insights Inc called ‘SocialSenseTV’, which correlates the buzz on popular US television shows with their actual Nielsen ratings.

The report covers the period from 1 February 2010 to the 25 April 2010. Unsurprisingly, given that timeframe, the number one most-discussed show across the social networks was Lost, counting down to last week’s final episode. However, despite its Number 1 social status, the ever-mysterious saga could only average 10th place in the Nielsen TV ratings (amongst those 18-64) across the period.

American Idol, second most talked-about TV series, was actually the top-rating TV show in the US for that time period according to Nielsen; Glee, third most buzzed, sang and danced its way into fourth in the ratings.

Further down the list, however, the disparity between the two metrics becomes far more evident. The Simpsons, still buzzworthy after all these years, ranks number four on the social-o-meter but rates 44th most-watched series according to Nielsen; the number five social show, Heroes, only manages an asterisk in the report (which means in this instance that the show is ranked somewhere below Nielsen’s 50 most-watched shows).

Other socially-superior shows that fell into the Nielsen realm of the asterisk included Saturday Night Live (9th most social), Cold Case (11th), So You Think You Can Dance (16th), Chuck (17th) and How I Met Your Mother (20th).

What implications can we take from all this? Firstly, that just because a topic hits water-cooler status doesn’t mean that talk will translate into action. In fact, it may well be that in many cases social newsgatherers can get enough out of the virtual buzz to avoid bothering to engage with the product at all. The next best thing to being there may well be listening hard enough to be able to bluff your way through in future conversations.

Secondly, those who stalk the corridors of the social networks, numerous though they may be, are not yet representative of the population at large – they’re younger (and tend to spend less time engaging with traditional media and more time interacting with each other). And when it comes to disposable income their share of purse still tends to be lower, except for core categories of importance to their demographic.

Thirdly, buzz about any particular event or TV show AFTER the event is just too darned late. Yes, TV operators might gather a few viewers to their Replay TV service, but for most other applications, it’s already over. The time to drive buzz is beforehand.

Fourth, volume is not sentiment. Just because people are talking about you a lot doesn’t mean they’re always saying nice things. They may just be reporting on transactions or engagement (“yeah, saw the final of Heroes too”) – or they may be hard at work trashing your brand (“iSnack 2.0? Give me a break”).

And finally, especially when it comes to TV shows that have been around a while, many of us carry a symbolic understanding of at least the most popular shows in our heads. Episodic television being what it is, where things don’t change much from week to week, all we need is a few fragments of current information to update our cerebral files and we don’t need to see the show to have the experience.

In summary: it’s nice when they’re talking about you (especially beforehand) but it’s no substitute for the ka-ching of the cash register.

Introducing B2BTV.co.nz

Online video is hot and getting hotter, not just for clips of cute cats but also to show how stuff works and to support product and service sales.

And it delivers results: according to US online retailer Zappos, products which include videos sell between six percent and 30 percent more than products without videos.

Other useful numbers:

  • According to at least one US SEO specialist, video is 53 times more likely than text content to rank within the top of search engine results.
  • US online measurement provider comScore reports the number of online shoppers who watch online product videos before buying a product grew 40 percent from January 2008 to January of 2009

We know a compelling trend when it kicks us in the statistics. So we’re launching a new website, B2B TV, whose purpose is to provide video resources for Kiwi businesses. It’s still in pre-beta mode (a decent helping of international content but only a limited amount of local stuff so far). Take a look at http://B2BTV.co.nz and tell us what you think [email protected].

iPads: Another Chip In The Infrastructure

The Sunday Times (UK) reported at the weekend (Registration Required, this is Rupert Murdoch’s new paid newspaper site) that the sheer number of new internet-connected devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has sparked a desperate need for more infrastructure to support all this flood of data. The proliferation of high-definition video and the launch of the iPad mean the volume of data traffic will go on soaring.

It might not feel like it, but the boom is still in its infancy. “Less than one percent of all video is watched online,” said Tom Leighton, co-founder of Akamai, whose technology helps clients such as Microsoft and Amazon dodge the traffic jams on the data highways. “In the coming years you are looking at a factor of 1,000 increase and a system that is already under stress.”


1. Will the New Zealand fibre rollout happen quickly enough to support the increasing demand for bandwidth? Or will we continue to stagger along with pretend broadband for year after year after year?

2. Will the migration to mobile computing (evidenced by the iPad and its many imminent competitors) be significantly hindered in New Zealand by cellular data pricing strategies?

Whitcoulls Launches The Kobo

For much of the 20th Century, New Zealand was a distant speck on most of the world’s horizon, our small population and geographical isolation restricting the products and services available in this fair land.

Thankfully, by the turn of the millennium Aotearoa enjoyed access to a decent helping of global goodies, enabled in no small part by the internet and its globalisation of parts near and far.

And yet, and yet. Some tantalising treats have still been denied us. You’ll no doubt have your own list – we’ve salivated in vain for e-readers in general, and Amazon’s Kindle in particular. The Kindle, for those who came in late, is a portable device for storing and reading books, using e-ink technology to replicate the look of the printed page (with minimal power requirements). The game-changing aspect of the Kindle, however, is its seamless connection with the cellular network (at no additional charge), enabling instant gratification – browse a list of books on the device, select one you like, one click and it’s yours in seconds.

Of course, data transfer via the cellular network does require the co-operation of at least one cellular operator in any market (not usually a big deal, at least in competitive environments). Alas, from what we can tell from outside (looking helplessly through the firmly closed shop windows) it seems that Amazon has still not reached any agreement with local cellular providers and so has simply ignored New Zealand in last year’s global rollout of the e-book reading device.

Finally, however, Whitcoulls has stepped up to the challenge, releasing a Kindle-equivalent, the Kobo, in co-operation with a Canadian organisation.

The Kobo, with its paperback-sized e-ink enabled screen, retails at just under $300 and is a worthy ereading device. You can see a useful video review of the Kobo, from Digital Publishing Forum Director Martin Taylor, at the NZ BookTV channel on YouTube or on our new B2BTV business video website.

The Kobo lacks the cellular connectivity that’s such a strong feature of the Kindle; even so, new titles can be easily uploaded to the Kobo via Bluetooth or USB port. That lack of cellular gratification may prove a problem when the iPad finally arrives here – but for now we’ll make do.

The Kobo is of huge strategic importance to Whitcoulls, even if its initial sales impact is likely to be muted. Our biggest bookseller is a small fish in a global pool; as reading goes digital, the tyranny of distance that has restricted access to our market for physical products is no barrier for the virtual variety. If Whitcoulls can’t carve out a foothold in the e-reading space, it risks being marginalised by online booksellers in general and Amazon in particular.

The Kobo will go at least some way towards preserving Whitcoulls’ presence in the (e)book-selling space – and will also provide valuable learnings when it comes to promoting and marketing e-books to a contained but not necessarily captive readership base.

Data-Driven Couponing

Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart’s warehouse chain, is now offering a program called eValues that strives to offer discount deals tailored to each member, based on that member’s buying history.

Previously, Sam’s Club coupons had a typical response rate of one or two percent. With eValues, according to Linda Vytlacil, vice president for member insights and innovation, as many as 20 to 30 percent of eligible customers collect the discount they are offered.

The eValues program is the latest iteration in the fast-growing field known as predictive analytics, which uses vast amounts of data to spot trends and anticipate consumer behaviour.

Datamining on this scale does enable companies to provide very real benefits to consumers (and to influence their buying behaviours by offering carefully-tailored deals). However, it does raise at least a couple of questions: (a) would consumers have bought the products anyway (so operators are just giving away margins); and (b) will consumer watchdogs raise significant privacy concerns?

Final Reminder: Survey for Marketers

As we mentioned a couple of times before, we’ve put together a survey on the current state of the New Zealand marketplace, in which we hereby invite those of our readers responsible for marketing activities within their organisations (client-side only, please) to participate.

Participants will receive a complimentary copy of the report’s findings, to help them with their own marketing plans for the rest of 2010 and beyond.

The survey will take about ten minutes of your life and will investigate your views on:

  • The Current State of the NZ Economy
  • Economic optimism for the short and medium term
  • Marketing Expenditure Trends
  • Marketers’ Concerns
  • Marketing Challenges and Opportunities

If you’re a marketer, please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/marketingexpectations

Heads up: Social Media Marketing Course 3

We had a lot of fun with our little e-book, Adventures Into The Unknown World of Social Media. We reached our quota of 100 giveaways within just three days (actually, we went a bit over, but we decided to be generous). We also made a special offer to recipients of the e-book, many of whom took us up on it. Sorry, if you weren’t on the list, you’ve missed out.

Strong demand continues for our social media marketing e-course; so this is a heads up to let you know that the third series will begin in July.

We’ll be putting our prices up when we release the new series next week (currently $297 +GST, next week $347 +GST), simply because the most common feedback that we’ve received is that our prices are too low, especially when compared to what else is out there and what we provide (seven weeks, 250 pages of course notes).

We will honour current pricing for any sign ups received this week, so drop us a line quickly if you want to register for Series Three. Course details as usual can be found here.

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