June 04, 2012

TV Getting Ready To Die Again

After 10 years of injudiciously predicting the death of television, you'd think the advertising and marketing press would exhibit a little self-control on this subject. No such luck.

A new study was released recently and it was accompanied by headlines like these:
"Don't Mean To Be Alarmist, But The TV Business May Be Starting To Collapse"
"UH OH: This Nielsen Data Suggests People Aren't Watching TV Anymore"
The proximate cause of these headlines was a Nielsen study called "Global Online Consumers and Multi-Screen Media: Today and Tomorrow."

The two big findings from the study that prompted the headlines were these:
  • The number of people who watched television at least once a month declined from 90 percent to 83 percent last year.
  • More people watched video on a computer (84%) in the last measured month than watched it on a TV (83%)
Taken at face value these are pretty convincing numbers. There is only one problem. They are totally, utterly, completely worthless. Did I state that strongly enough?

Here's what's wrong with them:
  • The numbers are self-reported. Nielsen says: "responses are only indicative of respondents’ beliefs about their own media usage, rather than actual metered data." In other words, the numbers are a report of what people said, not what they did. Anyone who knows the first thing about research knows that self-reported media behavior is meaningless. From The Economist......"one of the oddest and most consistent findings of television research: that people seem unaware of their own behaviour. In surveys they almost always underestimate how much television they watch, and greatly overstate the extent to which they watch video in any other form. In particular, they underestimate their consumption of live television... "
  • The sample is beyond a joke. Nielsen only surveyed internet users. This is like comparing orange juice usage to apple juice usage by only surveying orange juice users. Even Nielsen cops to the ludicrousness of this, "...Results may therefore, among other possibilities, over-report online usage via computers, under-report traditional television usage..." Not only did they only survey online users, the study itself was conducted online -- double skewing the results. There is not a credible testing facility in the universe that would do anything but laugh this "research" out of the lab.
As you know, here at The Ad Contrarian, we don't make predictions (other than awesome ones about Facebook and Pepsi.) We just report the facts and try to interpret what they mean.

The last reliable data we've seen say that TV viewing is at its highest point ever, and that online viewing of video represents only 2% of all video viewing.

The minute we see data that suggests that TV is collapsing or that people aren't watching it anymore, we'll let you know. Right now, this Nielsen nonsense leaves us magnificently unconvinced.

In Other News...
I have been struggling for weeks to get a new commenting system for this blog. The problem is that the 3rd party system I have used for years is going out of business and it seems that if I change to another system I will lose the 5 years of comments accumulated on the blog. The only solution seems to be to change to a new version of Blogger (which is the platform this blog is built on) and presumably I can import my old comments and start using the built-in Blogger commenting system. However, a) I don't trust that the old comments will import correctly, as everything else I have been told has turned out to be wrong and b) I have tried (and so has my IT department) to change to the new blogger format and it is fraught with crazy problems. I apologize to all my readers and commenters. I like to read your comments -- even the dumb ones that contradict me -- and I'm sorry it has become so difficult. There is an awkward work-around. You can go to the title of a post, click on the title, and a commenting box along with others' comments will appear at the bottom of the post. Right now, it's the best I can do.


Chris Seiger said...

Why would anyone publish that and call it research? That's the first question. The second question is, why would people write articles based on conclusions drawn from it? All it does is ruin credibility – if they had any – and create a bunch more adverzombies proclaiming the end of anything that works in favor of things that don't, but that we hope may at some point in the future.

Jeffrey Summers said...

Why not just move it to Wordpress and forgeddaboutit! ?? I'll do the migration for free just so you get a site that is more deserving of your content. I don't want my favorite ad mind having any more technical issues with my favorite content.

Tim Orr said...

Nearly 50 years ago, when I was in college, I went to an International Radio & TV Society (IRTS) "College Conference" in New York. Even then, people were reporting the demise of live TV (and this was before VCRs, DVDs and DVRs). And even then, the stats showed that TV viewing was at its highest level ever. It's terribly sad when the data doesn't match your devout wishes.

Ivan Jones said...

TAC - agree with your debunking of the research. FMI;  What is the source of the data quoted ''TV viewing is at its highest
point ever, and that online viewing of video represents only 2% of all
video viewing.