Save CMOs by Expanding the Definition of Audience Measurement

I have a beef with Wikipedia. They’re holding us back. This is a call to arms to Content Marketers to help us expand the scope of audience measurement beyond serving only the advertising industry.

It’s time to expand the definition of audience measurement to support savvy CMOs at brands that are embracing an audience-first strategy by building an owned media platform.  These audience-centric marketing leaders (both B2B and B2C) are driving new revenue streams and developing new business models beyond the scope of their current products/services marketing initiatives.

For evidence, please check out chapter 4 of Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose.

An expansion to the definition of brand audience measurement will alleviate one of the biggest issues CMOs face with their C-suite partners. TRUST! 80% of CEOs do not trust their CMO (thank you to Michael Brenner for influencing my thinking on this topic of trust.)

The Current Definition of Audience Measurement

The current definition of audience measurement is exclusively focused on one business model – advertising. (source Wikipedia)

Audience measurement measures how many people are in an audience, usually in relation to radio listenership and television viewership, but also in relation to newspaper and magazine readership and, increasingly, web traffic on websites. Sometimes, the term is used as pertaining to practices which help broadcasters and advertisers determine who is listening rather than just how many people are listening. In some parts of the world, the resulting relative numbers are referred to as audience share, while in other places the broader term market share is used. This broader meaning is also called audience research.

Audience measurement plays a critical role in the media and advertising industry. Audience measurement firms establish a common denominator (universe estimate) to calculate the reach and share percentages and demographic compositions for the audiences consuming content in the market(s) they measure.

The audience measurement data are primarily used to help advertisers and media companies understand the relative size and composition of the potential audience they reach through advertising campaigns. These metrics play a critical role in establishing the value and setting the price of a media publisher’s advertising inventory.

Audience measurement was founded — and has been dominated for decades —  by one company in particular; The Nielsen Company (which is also my former employer of 15 years.)

Nielsen ratings exclusively facilitated the growth of the now $70+ billion U.S. TV advertising market, also known as the TV Industrial Complex by Seth Godin. Nielsen has also expanded into audio, digital and cross-platform measurement over time, all to support only the advertising business model.

Even Nielsen’s recent expansion into measuring Netflix is only a defense mechanism to help their influential media clients understand and position against the flow of bingeing eyeballs to subscription streaming services. (I’ll expand upon this statement at a later date.)

Flying Below the Radar

During my tenure at Nielsen, the biggest complaint I heard from emerging media publishers is that the current measurement methodology only favored established brands with very large reach. To this day, it’s still very hard for niche publishers to hit the radar and achieve the reporting standards of 3rd party measurement firms like Nielsen.  

If it’s been tough for niche media publishers, then don’t hold your breath for audience measurement services to support brands with niche-focused owned media strategies. They too need insights into the size and composition of their audience.

It’s time to evolve the definition of audience measurement beyond the advertising business model to support B2B brands embracing an owned media strategy.

The NEW Definition of Brand Audience Measurement

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not important and connected enough to establish the new definition of audience measurement alone. What I do know is that the current one is not expansive enough and it’s harming audience-focused marketers that are building owned media platforms.

To quote Joe Pulizzi again, “there are 10 ways that an organization can drive revenues from a loyal audience.” Marketing is now a business model and market maker, and no longer just a cost center that creates sales collateral and allocates advertising expenditures.

You’ve also heard this before, but  “what gets measured gets managed” and monetized. To support the expansion of new business models from this audience-first effort, we must provide CMOs an objective set of data to show the true value of the most important asset they’re building and managing — a loyal audience.

Objective data that reveals the quality, composition, loyalty and revenue contribution of the owned media platform audience should garner the trust of CEOs that are not believers in this media-centric strategy.

Where to Start?

The good news is that brand marketers do not face the same issues that advertising-centric niche media publishers face in seeking objective third party measurement. The first step in measuring the audience of an owned media platform is to conduct an audit of the current audience. The current audience is most likely your existing database of email subscribers.

Questions should surface like, how much of our database is comprised of our ideal client? How much information do I have attached to each email record? What’s the depth of engagement for each record? What’s the composite sketch of my ideal audience? How much will it cost to develop content that speaks directly to my ideal audience member?

This approach will help you quickly determine the quality of the database and also how to develop and model strategies to invest in building an owned media platform.

In partnership with Robert Rose, we’ve built an Audience Valuation Engine to help marketers understand the size and composition of their owned media platform (or existing email database.) The AVE also reveals insights into the investment plan required to build and support an audience-first strategy through an owned media platform.

IMHO, the expansion of the definition of audience measurement beyond the advertising business model should build trust with the CEO and help to increase the average tenure of CMOs.

What do you think?




Image credit to Robert Rose of The Content Advisory