In physics, the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner… While the effects of observation are often negligible, the object still experiences a change.
In media research, the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by whom is funding and setting objectives for the observation. This is often the result of instruments that, by positivity bias, alter the outcome in some manner. Examples of this are quarter-hour-average-audiences reported as TV ratings, the obvious (get a free sub lately?) manipulation of print readership and circulation data and the low benchmark (<50% viewable for longer than 1 sec) as the online display “viewability” standard.
This is why it is so refreshing to see the “Where Are The Audiences” (WATA) study that is funded by NZ On Air with the objective just to find out what screens Kiwis are consuming to view and listen to content. NZ On Air will not financially benefit should any channel exceed another thus it is an “open-book” examination of the changing media usage since 2014.
According to WATA, since 2014 to 2021 we have seen the AP15+ daily reach/usage move:
- 30% to 59% for online video (including You Tube)
- 83% to 56% for television (including SKYTV and TV1,2 & 3)
- 6% to 51% for video streaming on demand (including Netflix)
- 67% to 47% for radio (including commercial and non-commercial)
- 23% to 41% for music streaming (including Spotify)
- 12% to 23% for NZ streaming on demand (including TVNZ and 3Now)
However, this is three-part story as since 2014:
- AP60+ screen usage is less affected as they kept on watching free-to-air TV.
- AP40-59 screen usage is the new “average” and akin to the AP15+ numbers.
- AP18-39 screen usage has dramatically changed with daily numbers leaping to 82% for online video, 72% for streaming video on demand and 68% for music streaming. Conversely, daily TV and Radio usage has collapsed to 35%/36%.
Interestingly, for AP18-39 the usage of NZ On-Demand has remaining largely unchanged since 2014 with about 1:4 using the service daily all this time. NZ On-Demand audience growth has come from other audiences, mainly the 40-59’s.
But is this likely to be true? Is this also attested by Nielsen TV ratings? We ran a test where we examined the TV ratings for an advertiser using a TV trading audience of AP18-49:
- AP18-49 TARPs 342 Reach 47%
And compared against x3 sub segments for the same TV spots:
- AP18-24 TARPs 73 Reach 20%
- AP25-34 TARPs 314 Reach 38%
- AP35-49 TARPs 466 Reach 66%
However, it gets worse for TV when considering exposure to the audience in ‘000s:
So, comparing the 35-49 to 18-24 sub segment we see there are x2 as many people, x6 as many TARPs and x12 as many TV exposure/OTS (opportunity to see) in a TV buy that included mostly TV2 & TV3 with smatterings of TV1, Duke & Bravo. This means, for every x1 18-24 person that may see an ad….x12 people 35-49 may see an ad.
Does it matter? Any exposure is all good exposure? No, in my view:
- Excessive publisher frequency = wastage (even possible harm).
- Over market reach = wastage
- Low market reach = missed opportunity
When I was buying TV (hands up who remembers Teletext!) you could achieve 80-85% reach on 350 TARPs because everybody watched free-to-air-TV. I am sure 350 TARPs would buy 80-85% reach for AP60+ today. However, the Young Adult free-to-air TV horse has truly bolted, and they aren’t coming back… they are entertaining themselves in the cloud now, dancing with pink fluffy unicorns on beautiful rainbows.