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The Premier League

23 Jun 2015  |  David Brennan 
The Premier League

Why shouldn't YouTube or Vevo be part of BARB's future, or Huffington Post and Vice be covered by an expanded NRS? Is it time top content sites were better ranked, wonders David Brennan.

Earlier this month I attended Mediatel's Connected Consumer Conference. I was part of a panel - along with Research the Media's Richard Marks and Kantar's Margo Swadley - discussing the challenges of connected data.

As it was scheduled for the last session of the day, I was kind of expecting a sparse attendance and a soporific atmosphere; data is not usually a conference topic to bring in the crowds at the best of times. How wrong I was. The audience remained in place and the discussion was quite feisty.

Following the stream of revelations regarding the deficiencies of the online data that has been used as a basis for planning, trading and evaluating a great deal of online advertising investment, it proved to be a rather different discussion than would have taken place even a year ago. Rather than a paean to the wonders of 'big data' it became a much more reflective debate about how we need to make the raw data usable (and accountable) before we can really consider it 'connected'.

The change in tone became evident when I suggested the slow motion car crash emerging around digital trading reminded me of the travails of FIFA. Not so long ago, that might have produced a few hisses and heckles; this time it was received with knowing smiles. Even the odd chuckle.

If data is truly the new oil, it can only power the digital economy once it has been refined."

There is a changing narrative around the issue of data and its increasing role in our business. We've started to become less impressed about the size, and more interested in the quality. Big data is all about petabytes and click rates whereas smart data is much more about quality and creative connections. If data is truly the new oil, it can only power the digital economy once it has been refined. The current problems in online analytics are the consequence of trying to run sophisticated engines using crude oil.

As I've mentioned previously there is an increasing need for the kind of standards, transparency and quality-control that is integral to the much-derided industry currencies to be applied to the online data if it is not to become mistrusted and essentially meaningless as a planning tool.

Even if their sample sizes are much derided, the industry's JIC currencies are a 'gold standard' in comparison. A great deal of our panel discussion revolved around what they can teach us rather than when and how they might be replaced.

Of course, a lot depends on the level of content (and audience) being traded. Mark Brandon introduced a new segmentation of the online display market, with his reference to "the arse end" of digital (much like the 'long tail' but fatter and occasionally more pungent). It would be a shame if the potential losers of this online omnishambles were the providers of premium content, who I think have been undervalued in the mix.

It was interesting that one of the most premium providers of all, the FT, suffered from misattribution of 82% when it tried to purchase its own inventory via online trading desks.

Why shouldn't YouTube or Vevo be part of BARB if it is successful in implementing its strategy to measure all 'TV' content"?

One of the natural developments of all of this should be a 'premier league' of top content sites - whether from legacy media or digital only - that can be integrated into the existing currencies (all of which are developing their ability to measure their own stakeholders' digital output).

After all, why shouldn't YouTube or Vevo be part of BARB if it is successful in implementing its strategy to measure all 'TV' content (however that's defined) anytime, any place, any screen? Or Huffington Post, Digital Spy and Vice within an expanded NRS?

I know UKOM was meant to be the online advertising industry's answer, but at the moment it is just another silo. Why not expand its remit and investigate truly platform neutral, gold standard options for measuring the premier league of digital content? Invest in NRS, BARB and the rest to improve their digital measurement as well as benefit online's key audience drivers?

Membership of this league would be through the proven delivery of significant UK audiences (in dwell time as well as reach), quality content and a willingness to be audited. Membership of the AOP (Association of Online Publishers) could be expanded.

Members could be required to pay a fee which - combined - could be used to bolster scope of existing JICS as well as develop their own data solutions to enable ALL premium online display inventory to be integrated into planning, trading and evaluation systems. Everybody would benefit...except maybe the digital trading desks.

A premier league of online content, based on trust, transparency and quality control; integrating with the other JICS and enabling proper cross media exchange of value between advertiser and media owner. The end of the digital-analogue divide.

That's what I would call connected data.

David Brennan is founder of Media Native

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