Audience behaviour is changing. New technologies are giving audiences increased control and choice over when, where, and how they consume media. At the same time, new technologies for measuring and monitoring audiences are revealing new aspects of consumer behaviour.

Media is now being consumed over many different channels such as; TV, desktops, tablets, smartphones and wearable devices, thanks to more affordable and more readily available computing power. This rise in multi-device media consumption has lead to audiences becoming more and more fragmented.

In addition to fragmentation, audiences also have more autonomy to when and where they consume media. The availability of Wi-Fi on trains, buses, cafes and public places has made video consumption an all day affair, which was once limited to watching TV after work.

Mobile and tablet viewing has increased 719% from 2011 to 2013, with the percentage of videos consumed on mobile phones increased ten-fold last year according to video services company Ooyala.

Equally important, individual content options have become smaller, split into discrete components. For example, consumers have the option to watch television clips, rather than entire episodes, on YouTube.

With the increase in volume and influence of blogs and social media, audiences are now taking part in the production of content as much as they are taking part in its consumption. As a result, the notion of the audience has expanded well beyond its traditional passive, exposure-oriented model.

The changes in the way people consume, interact and create media has had a dramatic effect on how we measure audience reach. Take, for example, traditional television audience reach compared with measurements available to measure online audiences.

Television audience reach collects data from a small representative panel of private homes and then combines this information with data from set-top boxes that captures commands about programmes tuned or services selected. There is no information about who is viewing, and there is always the possibility that while the TV is on, people are preoccupied doing other things and aren’t really engaged.

In contrast, the reduction in cost and rise in power of computer systems has resulted in an increased capacity to gather and analyse large quantities of statistical data that provides a better understanding of online audiences. Data is collected from people-based panels combined with tag-based measurements across mobile devices, tablets and secondary PCs covering all access points outside of home.

With online ads, it is also possible to record data about audience interaction to assess transactional ROI. Measurements tracking individual responses including direct response clicks, time spent interacting with ads for brand building, and interactions over time to the same campaigns, across multiple devices.

Online measurements have built in mechanisms to accurately measure audience reach. Additional filtering mechanisms are included to ensure non-human activity; caching and internal traffic is not included, that the ad was viewable and appeared on an appropriate web site in a context that did not interfere with the initial intent of the ad.

New systems of measuring media audiences, gathering feedback, anticipating their tastes and preferences, are making it possible for online advertisers to attract and monetise increasingly defined niche audiences. Programmatic trading enables advertisers to use all of the data collected to reach specific audiences at the most opportune time and location.

There is a movement for a common measurement to compare campaign effectiveness both online and offline.  The GRP (gross rating point) metric has underpinned television audience measurement for decades, is now used by online marketers to measure online video completions, brand safety measures, and conversion data. The ability to easily merge demographic and ad server performance metrics to compare TV and online channels is an enormous advantage for media planners and buyers and reflect the new ways the people consume media.

Measuring audience reach has created a more precise and complete understanding of consumer behaviour. Advertisers can interact with audiences in a more timely way with the most relevant message as a direct result of the evolution of media and more accurate and precise audience measurements.

Ben Walmsley

Ben Walmsley


Ben Walmsley, UK MD Sizmek.