How soon will the dating game between the Internet and Television turn into a marriage? Media strategists, with billions of advertising dollars at stake, are eager for reliable data tracking this relationship, specifically how consumers are adapting to interactive media.
Nielsen Media Research and NetRatings, Inc. announced the launch of the first "Convergence Lab" in the U.S., an ongoing consumer research laboratory to electronically measure television viewing and Internet activity as they occur in the same sample households. The first data from the panel will be reported to customers in March.
Procter & Gamble, TN Media, Starcom, and The Weather Channel are among the first customers for the new service.
To date, more than 190 households, representing approximately 500 persons with access to the Internet, have been recruited into the research sample, and Nielsen Media Research expects to reach 200 sample homes by February, and 250 households later this year.
Television sets in the research lab are equipped with Nielsen People Meters, the same methodology used for nationwide audience measurement by Nielsen Media Research. Internet activity -- including usage, on-line buying, and exposure to banner advertising -- is measured using software from the Nielsen//NetRatings service, the same methodology used to track Internet activity in household and workplace panels throughout the U.S.
"P&G is the first U.S. advertiser to support this cutting-edge research," said Buddy Tucker, Associate Director - Media, of P&G. "Information from this research panel will be vital to our ability to develop more effective cross-media campaigns. We were happy that when we started looking for this type of data, Nielsen and NetRatings had an answer. We expect this to produce some very exciting results."
David Ernst, Chief Knowledge Officer, TN Media, said: "The Nielsen Convergence Panel will be our first credible resource to assess the dynamics of Internet usage and how it affects television viewing. As the initial agency to support this initiative, we look forward to having better information about the consumer and their evolving media behavior."
"For the first time, electronically quantified television and Internet activity will be measured in the same sample households, and reported promptly to clients," said David H. Harkness, senior vice president in charge of planning and development for Nielsen Media Research. "Previously, all such information was obtained through telephone recall surveys, which do not have the same level of reliability, precision and tracking capability as our electronic methodologies."
Some examples of the type of data that Nielsen Media Research will be reporting from the convergence laboratory include:
Correlation, if any, between overall TV viewing and Internet surfing.
Correlation, if any, between types of programs watched on TV and content surfed on the Internet.
Correlation, if any, between specific programming outlets or programs viewed and the likelihood of these viewers visiting related web sites.
Instances of simultaneous usage of the TV and the Internet.
The information will be used to determine how TV programming and promotion drive web usage and traffic -- and vice versa.
Implementing the new service in a timely, cost-efficient manner is made possible by recruiting homes as they exit from the National People Meter Sample. (People Meter homes are in the national TV sample for a maximum of two years.) Only those People Meter households with Internet access in the home are recruited into the convergence panel laboratory. In addition to the Nielsen People Meter, the sample household's Internet activity will be monitored by NetRatings software which will be installed on the home PC.
"Convergence between the TV and the PC is expected to become more prevalent," continued Harkness, "and consumers may rapidly navigate from one medium to another on the same delivery platform. As digital interactive and convergent platforms advance, gaining a thorough understanding of how consumers use these media for information, entertainment, shopping, and many other options will become even more important to the industry. Our customers will need the right information -- quickly -- to develop effective content and advertising delivery plans."
For more information at http://www.nielsen-netratings.com.