Looking back into history, we can say that there have been at least four key phases of development in audience measurement methods and that the one we are entering now – the Fifth Age – is different.
But not completely different. Many of the techniques and methods we can expect to feature in this Fifth Age are already in place: device-agnostic surveys, passive data collection, the integration of multiple data sources with traditional survey data etc. And there continues to be a role for high quality methods and skilled human practitioners in the process.
What may need to change is the attitude of the various industry players to change and to working together.
Fear of change has been a great barrier to progress in implementing new methods – often exacerbated by the rising cost of measuring more platforms and reporting faster and more frequently. But digital technology has disrupted every business model and must be embraced, even though it offers difficult choices for many.
Co-operation amongst different media (e.g. sharing a panel equipped with multiple data collection technologies) offers one potential way of overcoming the financial challenges – as long as priorities can be agreed amongst the disparate stakeholders. Data science also has a far greater role to play in turning Big Data into usable insight.