Who They Work for/are Owned By
It is important to also think about who are the owners of BARB? BARB itself claims to be a not-for-profit organization. It is owned by major broadcasters, whose audiences it claims to measure, and also by the advertising agencies who use the data to underpin their advertising sales. While the organization is clearly complex, to arrange a measurement system that all parties can accept, there are undeniable and questionable conflicts of interest here.
The Value They Create
Almost an entire sector lives in a world where they consistently extract one column from a set of data, that has one figure that can justify an argument, and then they seek to dismiss or disregard all other data that could be used in context to counter their argument.
The reality is that of the roughly ?4.7bn of TV advertising spend in the UK, the vast majority is distributed against these audience statistics, and this goes to fund many independent production companies and the like. The idea is that while the panel model is accepted, the status quo remains. Much the same as the recording companies that were slow to adapt to the Internet and lost nearly all their market share in the distribution of the intellectual property of music, the TV and advertising industry have become incredibly cosy, and fear change. Meanwhile a generation is coming through that will correct this, and it is clear that that intransience, if not better and more honestly managed, will cause a severe correction in the value of the TV advertising industry in the not too distant future. What is more, if that contribution to the production and creative talent is not managed into the forthcoming Internet broadcasting era, then there will be considerable cost in the change and attrition of all the intransient organizations.
I have seen first hand the disruption to the record companies over the past 20 years, and even their occasional re-emergence here in the “digital era" Likewise (often less discussed than the music Industry on which everyone has an opinion) radio has evolved, and the Internet radio industry is showing every sign of having to adapt to the huge correction in the value that targeted online advertising has brought. There is no more “spray and pray” value underpinned by some conjecture. Online the successful Internet radio stations know exactly who their market is and sell access to that market to sponsors.
I would liken it to the evolution of the weather forecast services: once we used to forecast with some wet seaweed hung outside the office. Now we have satellites. This is how I contrast traditional panel measurement with “real user measurement” available to Internet distribution. The frustration I have is that there are many who still defend the seaweed method, and this legacy culture makes it challenging getting access to the advertisers' roughly ?4.7bn to “launch the satellites” needed to service the next market cycle. Interestingly this has led to some notable successes in the subscriber-driven side of the TV industry, but often those subscriber networks struggle to get rights to content from the legacy content houses. It has to be said that Netflix and Amazon Prime have proved the viability of subscription OTT services and won an independence to produce content directly with the production houses. This is a huge step forward, and one that will accelerate when ad revenue can be concentrated in one place - YouTube being the key market leader in this particular model.
Anyway - I digress for now! OK - let's get back to tech.