NEW YORK: In the search for comparable cross-media metrics, average audiences have been proposed as a standard that would put traditional and digital platforms on the same footing.

In its report, Any Given Minute, the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) defines average audience as "the measure of adults engaging with each platform or piece of content in an average minute during a specified time period".

It pointed out that not only does this metric take into account three interrelated measurements – unique audience, average minutes per visitor and total minutes – but it also "provides a good snapshot of true scale on a platform or piece of content at any given time".

So there are no page views or unique visitors to cloud the picture, as Yahoo! managed last year when claiming that its streaming of an NFL game had delivered an audience to rival that of live TV.

But it wasn't comparing like with like, and when the VAB applied its average audience metric to the data it reported that "the Yahoo!-streamed game marked the lowest average audience ever for a nationally available NFL game".

The VAB also addressed the perception that late-night TV talk shows get larger audiences on social media than on television, another instance of not comparing like with like.

For example, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon got 6.8m unique visitors on YouTube in December, while the average audience on linear TV was 3.4m. But when the unique visitor figure was converted into a truly comparable average audience metric, it fell to 2.6m.

"Far more people are more engaged for far more time with late night content on the television while YouTube serves as a complementary platform for viral clips," the study said.

"This is how TV has been evaluated for decades," Adam Gerber, senior VP/client development and communications, ABC, told Advertising Age. "It the only fair way to make comparisons across channels."

Data sourced from VAB, Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff