This column is usually devoted to issues of meaning and creative business. Almost never does it cast its gimlet eye on the inner-workings of cutting-edge technology–the reason being this writer’s ignorance on all aspects of the subject. (Even for one of the baby boomer generation, my knowledge on the subject is exceptionally primitive, if not troglodytic.)
Nevertheless, I have become increasingly fascinated by what may well be a rapidly approaching disruption in the consumer research niche of the analytics industry focused on the evolving viewership patterns of hundreds of millions of entertainment consumers. This disruption may well threaten the long-time ascendancy of Nielsen, the highly profitable gold standard dreadnought of entertainment research.
Note an article from the October 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal titled “Media Industry Welcomes comScore-Rentrack Deal.” The piece states that the media and advertising industry are eagerly anticipating and hoping that the union of entrepreneurial public companies comScore (SCOR) and Rentrack (RENT) augers serious competition to Neilsen as “their industry grapples with fast-changing viewership habits.” The WSJ quotes Brian Hughes, Sr. VP of audience analysis at Magna Global (a division of Interpublic) as saying, “We are happy to have at least two major players trying to build a better mousetrap given the hurdles we face with measurement.”
Nielson’s throne indeed may be shaky. The analytics industry has long complained of the insufficiency of current methods in tracking the efficacy of ads and content on linear TV and digital devices.
ComScore is the premier provider of audience measurement of web content and digital. Its new junior partner, Rentrack, is primarily known for its measurement partnerships with Hollywood studios, theater chains, and Dish. For the first time Nielsen may have some real competition for billions in advertising research dollars.
The WSJ quotes CBS Chief Research officer David Poltrack, who notes, “Five years ago it looked unlikely that any of these challengers [to Nielsen] were going to be able to pull all the assets necessary to create a total solution approach, and now we’ve got two major initiatives to provide that. Consolidation, in this case, is positive.”
Even more interesting is an audacious pipsqueak upstart, just entering the commercial markets, called PeerLogix (LOGX). As near as I can figure, PeerLogix seems to have found a way to harness and monetize consumer criminality. This parvenu company apparently accomplishes this by tracking “torrent” files. Essentially their technology is based on measuring “torrent piracy” by any number of apps and websites, most notably Bit-Torrent and Popcorn Time.
PeerLogix seems to be the other side of the coin from Nielsen and comScore/Rentrack, both of whom operate by mining data of consumers using accepted and legitimate media outlets. PeerLogix mines the legally murky underside of the internet and opens up new arenas to research analysts via a software which engages consumers of the content-sharing economy. PeerLogix claims to be able to mine the 145 million (and rapidly growing) worldwide users of torrent files, who leverage the ability of people to network peer-to-peer. CEO of PeerLogix, William Gorfein, states on MoneyTV, “PeerLogix is a company whose software platform can uniquely track and catalog torrent files and their users.”
Well, who knows? Its well beyond my ken, but, as Bob Dylan famously said, “The times they are a changin’.” It’s just that, these days, the times are a changin’ much, much faster. Everywhere and in every industry. Media analytics may well be the next domino to fall prey to disruption.
Peter Diamandis, author of best seller Abundance (with Stephen Kotler), puts it this way. “Everywhere the rate of change is so fast that large U.S. companies are in constant danger of disruption. Not from competition in China or India, no. They’re in danger of being made obsolete from two guys/gals in a garage in Silicon Valley, or anyone, anywhere, empowered by exponential technology, willing to risk it all, driven by their passion.” Well noted, Peter.