Are we gambling with the truth?

15 Oct 2012  |  John Carroll 

John Carroll, senior director at Ipsos MediaCT and chairman of the Media Research Group (MRG) previews some of the topics that will be hotly debated at this year's MRG conference.

With the latest ZenithOptimedia reports forecasting 2.2% UK advertising growth for 2012 and a PwC review putting the value of the UK research market at over £3 billion (bigger than music or newspapers) there may be some chinks of light seeping through the dark tunnel of recession. But our media research industry still faces some meaty challenges, especially from new technology.

According to Google, there were 350 million YouTube videos shared on Twitter last year. Furthermore, 16% of internet searches on a daily basis are new - i.e. words being typed into Google not seen before. These are just two examples of what we call 'big data' - data that is collected via web or mobile analytics and not from traditional survey research.

Personally, I hate the term, 'big data', as it is still just data. Nevertheless, the two worlds of survey and server data make uneasy bedfellows. While media owners are fed their staple diet of survey or panel-derived audience measurement data, often on a quarterly basis, this is now being served with extra helpings of behavioural digital data on a continuous stream.

The next big challenge for the internet is going to be around processing, analysis and decision making. It will be how data, not just communication, will change the way consumer and business lives are run.

"If you torture the data long enough, it will confess." Ronald Coase (Nobel Laureate)

The beauty of data, big or otherwise, will only come through insight and interpretation. The topic of survey versus server data will be hotly debated in one of the panels at the Media Research Group conference in Monte Carlo this November.

The previous two annual MRG conferences portrayed us as an industry with our eyes looking firmly ahead and certainly looking beyond the doom and gloom of what's been a brutal economic time. We are now willing to experiment and adapt to meet the current demands of the digital world. We are now mobile, connected, social and data rich (if not cash rich).

Consumer behaviour is changing and so therefore is our approach to measurement. But big data is not necessarily beautiful and so are we getting closer to the truth and do we know what the truth is anymore?

The 12 papers selected for conference all dig deep beneath the surface of whether we are gambling with the truth. We will find out how a media consumer behaves in today's world and what the truth is when it comes to mobile and advertising.

The connected consumer also features strongly with a number of papers tackling the subject of multiple screen behaviour and measurement (including three shortlisted for MRG Research Initiative Awards).

With a second panel debating the value of social media measurement and three entertaining and provocative keynote speakers in Martin Weigel, Georges Mao and Magnus Lindkvist, the challenges facing our industry will be hot-housed into just one media research conference.

Are we gambling with the truth or just experts at managing risk? Come and see who will show their hand in Monte Carlo.

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