A Reckoning is Coming: The Traditional Media’s Data Problem

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The post is a part of a series of blogs about traditional media’s data quality and its use. 
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Read post 2 here and post 3 here. 

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I believe a Reckoning is coming.

I think someday soon (3-5 years) most business people across the country will begin to revolt because of the lack of data that offered by traditional media outlets. Our culture is growing more and more data aware and savvy everyday. This is not to say that traditional media will no longer be a good place to advertise. I believe that traditional media can be useful and I will talk about that more in the 3rd post in this series. Lets look at three of the main types of traditional media and their data:

Newspapers and Magazines: Newspapers and magazines strongest data to show someone is their distribution. In the Old World of data this was sufficient. I believe there is a little something in our heart that assumes that what ever the distribution number it is the same as the number of people who would see our content or ads. But in our brain we know that there is no possible way that everyone of those newspapers was read and of the ones that were picked up very few of them were read all the way through. But there is no way to know what the number of people who read the newspaper is or how many of them interacted with your ad. Newspapers and magazines also have a short shelf life but longer than Radio and TV.

Radio: Similar to a print distribution number but more accurate I think are radio ratings. But radio ratings are still based on what I would consider an extremely fallible system which is built similarly to TV.(more on that in the next paragraph Radio deals with a few specific challenges like: are people paying attention when listening, is it on in the background of a work place, or are people talking in the car while its playing. In my opinion most radio stations do not start from a place that assumes engaged listenership.

TV and Radio operations usually refer to Neilson ratings (or a similar type service like Arbiton, which was  acquired by Nielsen). Nielsen has had some problems recently: Here is a New York Times Article on how Nielsen had bad data for several months.   But that Old World Data is still going to be inaccurate even if reported correctly. Nielsen collects ratings two ways: journal and meters. Journal (or diary) markets have people who record what they watch on TV or listen to on radio each day. Journal reporting relies on peoples ability to remember and their willingness be honest in their reporting. Nielsen and organizations like it select people based on demographics to report in these journals. West Tennessee is journaled market. Similarly in a metered market a demographically diverse group of people are selected and their TV or Radio use is recorded and transmitted to the collecting organization. These numbers are flawed in a New World of Data because its only a sample group. As our culture becomes more and more segmented the representation of demographics will become less and less accurate. People are less and less likely to watch what everyone else is watching or  if they do it might not be on the same screen.

Additionally most of the traditional mediums are based on repetition to get the message across. This requires money over time. This may work if you are a large business but if you are small business or a startup you probably will not have enough cash to start an effective campaign.

The new world of data demands much more than what traditional media can offer. In post 2 I will talk about the New World of Data in marketing and in part 3 talk about some ways to maximize use of local traditional media.

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  • […] •TV Ads are prominent but faced a huge drop and I suspect this will only continue. Traditional media is going to continue to suffer from a drop in power due to demographic changes and the adoption of technology. TV is going to become less and less powerful unless they do something about it's viewership and data.  Here are some of my other thoughts about traditional media. […]

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