Audience research is a well-established activity in the media and advertising industries the world over. The British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) began it in the 1960s when they commissioned the first audience measurement survey. Despite heavily investing in that enterprise, the BBC chiefs did not think that they needed the research, because they already knew who was watching what they were offering. Well, the results of the research soon made them realize that their audience differed from what they had thought and that several other factors affected TV viewership. Today, that strongly held view has changed and now, audience research is the gateway to transacting media as well as curating content for the media industry worldwide.
Also, the African media landscape is changing from government owned, funded and monopolized media to a liberalized private sector-led environment, with increasing media outlets which need private funding across the continent. Of course, if a liberalized media sector is essential to the sustenance of liberal democracy on the African continent, the proliferation of TV and radio organizations must be sustained by private funding. If this is done, it will deepen nascent democracies, showcase the African cultures, and promote the creative sector. However, private sector funding is sustained mainly through the availability and accuracy of data, which helps to track return-on-investment (ROI). Data is collected through audience research systems.
The APCON, NBC, others push for global standards in Nigerian media.
Audience research and measurement is needed to sustain a liberalized media sector. Audience research measures how many people listen to radio, view TV, read newspaper, and consume online and mobile content. It includes practices that help media and advertisers determine what particular segments of the audience are watching rather than just how many people are watching different contents. In turn, this helps in content development and targeting of audience, production budget planning, and ad placement and ROI tracking from both the supply and demand ends of the media value chain. This is the currency that drives the efficiency of the sector.
It is owing to this that industry stakeholders such as the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and the Ministry of Information and Culture are recently pushing for global standards in audience measurement for the Nigerian market as a paradigm shift. Subsequently, the NBC and the APCON have jointly inaugurated a Joint Industry Council (JIC) in August 2021. A former President of the Media Independent Practitioners, Mr. Tolu Ogunkoya, heads JIC, while technical partnership to the project is supplied by GARB Bulgaria through her Nigerian subsidiary, First media Entertainment & Integrated (Nigeria) Limited, which is headed by Dr Vasselin Shaoulov. Both have commenced operations with a view of project delivery in the last quarter of 2022.
Only a passive audience research system is accurate and seamless.
There are several ways of collecting credible data about audiences, but the major ones are passive and declarative. In the passive system, data is collected about individual or household media consumption using electronic means over a period of time, without the audience having to note or record their media consumption. There are different technologies used for this such as People Meters for TV measurement, Personal People Meters for TV and radio, and software-based mobile data collection methods for all media.
A major benefit of these methods is that they do not require memory or diligent compliance as in the declarative system. Declarative audience measurement system refers to quantitative research that requires the respondent to diligently state, record or note their media consumption over time. This system has proved to be inaccurate and without finer qualitative details when compared to data collected through the passive system. Except South Africa, Nigeria runs a declarative audience data collection system like every other country on the continent. Little wonder that South Africa’s media advertising transaction in the TV market is $1.2 billion, almost three times that of Nigeria’s.
The passive audience measurement system benefits a lot of stakeholders.
This robust system of audience data collection help media houses and content providers have better control over their scheduling and their inventory in order to increase their audience engagement and level of advertising they attract. Because it becomes clear through the data what programs attract specific audiences, they can therefore buy or create content and plan their programming schedules accordingly to attract audiences that are valuable to advertisers and brands. It also helps advertisers know whom to target and how to target them with particular ads and brand awareness.