Dark matter: Measuring readership in a multi-platform age

Manfred Mareck
Research Marketing

In his keynote speech to the Print & Digital Research Forum Symposium 2013 (the biennial conference supported by Kantar and Ipsos, and formerly known as the Worldwide Readership Symposium), Professor Philip Napoli warned delegates to expect wide-ranging destabilisation of established audience concepts and measurement. In the 1950s Paul Lazarsfeld promoted the idea of preferences and liking (of radio programmes) instead of purely quantitative exposure measures. But then audience research became largely focused on the concept of 'exposure' as the core metric, leaving out concepts such as attentiveness.

"Audience dark matter like engagement and interest may be difficult to define and measure, but the dark matter is growing" warned Napoli. "There's a shift from (measurement based) social science to computer science and an increasing gap between what the data producer knows and the end user is told. Transparency is suffering and few people really understand the complexity of algorithms and models." It was a somewhat sobering picture – maybe the whole media research industry is getting sucked into a Black Hole of Big Data.

Multi-platform measurement