Each December, CBS’s Chief Research Officer Dave Poltrack addresses the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference. This year’s talk, “The Outlook for the Broadcast Networks,” covered a wide range of topics, including social TV: “Nothing was hotter this year than social media with Twitter front and center with its IPO,” according to Poltrack. “Television programs and televised events have always been a major source of conversation. With the emergence of the online social media, we are seeing how much these subjects dominate people’s non-personal interaction.”
Then, in what might have been a surprise to the investors in the audience, Poltrack made this strong statement: “However, the real action is not online – it is still face-to-face.” And the correlation statistics he shared bear this out.
To begin, Poltrack cited Keller Fay data when he told the audience that 90 percent of all daily conversations about television are offline with 80 percent being face-to-face conversations. Only 2.7 percent are online conversations utilizing social media sites. That part of the story has been told before.
But this part was new and never before released. When close to 50 TV shows that have aired this fall are analyzed, the correlation between Keller Fay’s WOM metrics and the Nielsen Live+7 ratings was a strong 0.784.
“The next question,” said Poltrack, is “how does the volume of online social site mentions compare to these broader Keller Fay results?” The answer is…”not very well.” Poltrack pointed out that conversations on Twitter, as measured by Nielsen’s SocialGuide, are less likely to reflect ratings performance than Keller Fay’s measures, and that only two programs on the Keller Fay “top 10”—The Voice and Once Upon a Time—are also among the top 10 on Twitter, as measured by Nielsen’s SocialGuide.
In short, the Poltrack presentation to UBS sheds further light on the differences between online and offline conversation. Online buzz represents a relatively small slice of the conversation – conversations that in and of themselves do not reflect what’s being talked about in the real world. The real world conversations are highly correlated to outcomes – in this case, ratings. Online measurement alone is insufficient. What is needed is a broad-based measurement system that integrates online plus offline conversations to give the TV industry and the advertisers it serves a truer picture of the size and scope of the entirety of social conversation around TV. In other words, we need a “total social” metric if we truly want to understand social TV.