Total Audience Measurement Index?

From the Wall Street Journal:

NBC calls it “the world’s biggest focus group.”

With an estimated 185 million unique viewers over a 17-day period, the Olympic Games provide a special audience microcosm, and one that NBC believes will be particularly useful for measuring new-media consumption habits and trends.

NBC touts all the different platforms it is bringing to bear for the Games, which began Friday in Vancouver. Viewers can watch on the network, NBC Universal’s many cable channels and NBCOlympics.com. They can download clips to their iPhones and receive mobile updates on a favorite skier or figure skater.

Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal’s head of research, predicts big shifts in viewership habits compared with the last Olympics, held in Beijing in 2008, with large increases in the number of people who catch the games on mobile devices and who simultaneously watch on TV and the Web.

But much is still unknown about how to measure the audiences of many of these outlets, and it is tough to sell ads without an accurate understanding of how people consume new media and media outside the home.

Measuring all the various outlets is a “burning issue” among advertisers, says Thom Gruhler, president of Interpublic’s McCann-Erickson in New York.

NBC has hired at least six different market-research firms to help keep tabs on Olympics viewership, including Nielsen Inc., Arbitron Inc. and Integrated Media Measurement Inc.

NBC has hired Keller Fay, which specializes in word-of-mouth marketing, to monitor social-networking Web sites and viral communication by measuring Olympics-related phone and live face-to-face conversations.

Some of the measurement technology is experimental. While Portable People Meters have been in use for three years, the specially outfitted mobile devices are largely used to measure radio consumption, not TV. NBC says it is important to test new research techniques beyond the standard meters attached to television sets.

NBC will release a daily “total audience measurement index” or “TAMi” that will tally how many people watched the Olympics on the various platforms. That information will be supplemented with daily interviews with 500 viewers and will help NBC understand why, for example, a viewer watched a downhill wipeout on a laptop while the TV set showed a reality show.

The network’s Olympics research budget is in the mid-six figures. That’s a small portion of the cost of the games for NBC, which expects to lose roughly $250 million on the Games after paying $820 million for the broadcast rights.

The fact that NBC would spend $820 million dollars for the broadcast rights to the Olympics yet will spend a couple hundred thousand dollars to research how their’s and presumably their advertisers messages will be consumed elsewhere other than television illustrates the difference between old media’s and new media’s commitment to advertising performance.

While new media lives and dies by advertising measurement and effectiveness, old media is only slightly interested in its advertising effectiveness online  – just not that interested.

I wonder why?

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