Table of Contents
Audience measurement systems show how many people are in a particular audience, mainly about television viewership, radio listenership as well as magazine and newspapers readership. In most cases, the term is used about practices that help advertisers and broadcasters in determining who is listening rather than just how many people are listening. The resulting relative numbers in some parts of the world are known as audience share while in others they are referred to as market share. Measuring broadcast audience is among the longstanding matters to advertisers and broadcasters as it offers the data from which the efficiency of broadcast programs can be evaluated. Different well-known methods have been used with the aim of providing an estimate of the total audience of different programs. The methods additionally offer a detailed estimate of demographically significant audience segments like the number of women between the ages of 34-56 watching a given minute of a particular program (Abelman & Atkin, 2002).
According to Webster et al 2006, the major issue with the media audience is that they are always hard to find. They are mostly geographically dispersed, elusive and hidden away in businesses, homes and or motor vehicles. This means that they are hardly unseen for those involved in the business media. The audiences are only visible through research. Micheal Checkland a former BBC director general, in Vuuren (1994: 120), indicates that without research there is nothing known about the customers which are a unique thing in broadcasting. All that the media does is to send invisible signals out into the ether without knowing whether there is someone receiving them. The answer to this problem has an audience research. Following changes in the consumer media consumption habits, the industry is finding it hard to maintain its purpose. As Webster et, al 2006 indicates the audience measurement has become more than merely satisfying the broadcasters curiosity concerning their unseen audiences (Barney et al 2016).
Fourie (2003) and Gane (1994) have indicated that the need for audience measurement is now a large function of the changing media environment. Increased competition witnessed in the marketing industry due to factors like saturated markets, and product deluge has led to the need for more precise identification of the market segments to target advertising to the designated segments more effectively (Buzzard 2002).
Audience measurement is now among the complex and highly specialised industries with millions being spent on an annual basis worldwide. However, technological innovation has constantly transformed the possibilities for and practices of audience measurement. Other reasons for measuring media audience is to know how many they are, what class are they in, what age are most of them, where do they reside as well as when they access media information (Woodford, Goldsmith & Bruns, 2015).
There are different ways of measuring media audience. The first one is Snapshot versus Cumulative techniques. The snapshot method, on the one hand, is concerned with particular moments in time. The common questions asked in this method include:
- How many copies of a particular newspaper were sold?
- Who bought the magazine today?
- How many people watched a particular commercial?
The cumulative method, on the other hand, involves measurements over a certain period. The questions mainly asked in this method include:
- How many radio listeners tune into lunch news in a month?
- The drama series reached how many TV viewers over its entire run?
Absolute numbers versus percentage
With absolute numbers, the above questions will be answered as follows
- 4 million people bought today’s newspaper
- 20 million people watched the commercial
- 6% of a particular commercial are under the age of 25
- 10% of those who visited a particular website checked the banner ad on the home page.
Different institutions and groups of people require information concerning their audience structure and size as well as the attitudes of the audience towards the media Kent 1994. Film producers and programmers, newspaper and magazine editors as well as broadcast schedules need to address a potential audience for their products using a suitable market mix. This means that promotional activities, product designs, contents and coverage needs to be matched with the existing opportunities in the market as well as with the organisation limitations and capabilities (Mytton 1999).
Additionally, media owners need information concerning their audience. Media owners operate in two different markets. The first one is that of the audiences for their particular specific media products. The second one is that of advertisers who they sell advertising opportunities for communicating with potential customers. When it comes to advertisers, they need to convince them that certain mediums will reach a particular audience regarding composition and size. To be able to attain this, the media owners need detailed information on the audience.
Measuring television audience
When measuring the audience of Television, one needs to understand some terms that include: the Universe that is the amount of people or homes who can consume a certain type of media. The second term is the audience that refers to the group of consumers consuming a certain media product. This is mostly applicable to radio and television, but advertisers are supposed to use it for all groups of media consumers.
With the introduction of commercial channels that heavily depend on advertising sales, the television industry has drastically changed all over the world. This has resulted in the need for a more detailed audience measurement. According to Kent 1994, the measurement of the television audience has changed from conventional and relatively simple methods to metering. Following the technical characteristics of the television medium, the only effective way to measure the audience is the use of meters. Due to technological changes, people meter panels have become universal standards for measuring television audience in more than 70 nations worldwide Gill 2000; Webster et al. 2006.
However, following the technological changes in recent years, the well established the practice of metering television audience through people meter panel faces some critical challenges. For instance, according to Garland 2002 the willingness to participate in questionnaire surveys has been declining and is believed to continue declining. This also applies to the participation in people meter panels.
The second challenge is in measuring digital versus analog signals. The basic measurement function of the metering devices has always been the capturing of television channel tuning (Garland 2002). Following the introduction of digital signals, the existing basic technology is no longer sufficient.
The last challenge is measuring the increasing fragmented viewing. There has been an increase in the number of available channels, which has led to the increase of the number of channels watched by an individual although at a slower rate. Danaher & Balnaves (2002) and Garland (2002) argues that currently the average individual watches around 10 to 15 channels per month. The limitations of sample sizes have however made the measurement of the audience of small share and niche channels less precise. Low-cost metering technologies are now being developed to compensate for this problem as they can be used in large-scale samples for more specific applications.
Measuring radio audience
The radio as a broadcast medium has a unique nature which presents difficulties t the audience research making the measurement of its audience difficult and complex (Twyman, 1994). Following are different techniques that can be used to measure radio audience:
- Different surveys where respondents are questioned regarding what they usually listen to, how often they listen to particular programs and when.
- Systematic recalls and coincidental as well as
Measuring the audience of print media
Organisations and editors concerned with the publication of newspapers operate in two markets. The first one is that of selling of copies. Readership data from this market offers circulation departments and editors information concerning the success of the publication in attracting the profile and size of the audience aimed for. The second market is that of selling advertisement space. Additionally, leadership estimates in this market is also a currency for advertisement trading.
The average issue readership is used to measure the audience size of a magazine or a newspaper. This refers to some people reading a particular issue averaged across issues. I t is worth noting that when estimating the audience of print media, the focus mainly falls on issues of a particular magazine or newspaper, not on the sections of the content like an advertisement or an editorial page
Case study analysis of Google News
Visiting internet website is also a media mass behavior like reading a particular newspaper or choosing a television program to watch. The media being a mass medium measurement of the size and duplication of its audience is of importance. Just like the print and broadcasting media, the internet relies on audience rating as well as indicators of the audience size to maintain its operating costs.
When determining audience of Google News, there are two approaches that can be utilized. The first one is site-centric and the second one is user centric. When talking of site-centric each internet traffic going through different servers is monitored. For instance in the Google News website every time somebody views it, the call to the server is logged and counted.
When it comes to the user-centric approach, it comes out clear that most global rating companies are now making use of internet measurement software as data collection methods. To understand this method, it is important to understand some of the commonly used terms. The first one is the user. This term has three subsections: The first one is users who refer to the number of people visiting a website, Unique users who refer to the number of different people visiting a website and unique visitors referring to the unduplicated number of people who have visited the website at least one during a certain period (Lynch, et al 2015).
Another important term is Hits referring to the number of times a certain web page has been landed on without considering whether it is the same people.
Google News is among the websites with the very high impression which is achieved when users-adverts or whole pages see something. It page impression is counted when different people request to view or download the information on the page (Iosifidis, 2010).
Those advertising on Google news platform pay a particular cost commonly referred to pay-per-click. This mainly affects the advertisers who are supposed to pay for every person clicking on their ads. For instance, the average pay per click in Google news ranges between $1 and $2 on the search network. The average Cost per Click display network is always under $1. What is great about using Google News as a platform for advertisement is that sometimes one can decide how little or how much one needs to pay. Sometimes there is no minimum cost per clicks in some Google platforms and advertisers can determine how much they should pay through figuring out how much sale is worth for them (Fourie, 2003).
Google News has more than 4500 sources of news worldwide. In March 2012, it had a version for more than 60 different regions in 28 languages. Its services as of September 2015 were being offered to 35 different languages. Google on 1 December 2009 had some changes on their first click free program which has been operating since 2008 and allowed users to read articles behind a pay wall. The first click of the reader to the content is free, and the content provider will set the number after that.
Google news is, however, in a position to limit the number of free articles that its readers can access through first click free. Any user from a host matching must be in a position to see a minimum of three articles daily. This is a form of metering the users. When users click on too many of a publisher’s article from Google News, the meter for the freely accessible articles on the site is exhausted. Google News offers 100,000 business opportunities to different publishers every minute or 4 billion clicks every month. They additionally have 50,000 competing publishers (Danaher & Balnaves, 2002).
Some of the commonly asked questions while estimating the audience of Google news include:
How many people are there in the audience? – The audience size determines the value of the website to the media and the advertisers. The second question is how often people show up in the audience. The factor relates to the behavior of different audience underlying the size of the audience. It is necessary for Google News to obtain information concerning how people use and access information on their websites over time. People willing to advertise on Google News website are additionally willing to understand how many different people are exposed to their messages (Baumann, 2015).
The third question seeks to know the members of the audience. This is so because Google audiences are no longer taken as a faceless mass. Most of the information on Google website, therefore, targets specific types of audiences through a strategy known as market segmentation. Google audience is segmented according to various characteristics and traits with the different researchers referring to the traits as variables.
It is clear from the discussion that the measurement of media audiences has never been for the fainthearted. Even with the impressive arsenal of techniques and methodologies that have been developing over the years with the aim of capturing audience behavior, different research audience has been faced with new problems as well as challenges following the technological developments, which have been witnessed in the ever-changing media environment. Those opposing efforts of audience measurements have argued that the results of audience measurement efforts cannot be termed as a full and final answer to the knowledge quest concerning media audiences (Buzzard, 2002). Knowledge of audience measurement needs to be enriched by being embedded within theoretical paradigms. Knowledge of media audiences needs to be expanded further by research within alternative paradigms where participative and qualitative methodologies are employed. Additionally, it is clear that understanding consumer preference for engaging with content is important for media owners, companies as well as an organisation engaging with consumers in the digital era. Media companies should, therefore, find ways of engaging consumers while effectively addressing their preferences.
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