Microsoft – good at data analytics; pretty bad at media research

If you ever suspected that the media industry had two halves that were relative strangers to each other, then the bare-knuckle debate that”s broken out between the television industry and Microsoft will confirm your view.

Microsoft has issued research data that suggests Internet use will rise and TV viewing will drop. The European TV industry has hit back with a deconstruction of Microsoft”s research methodology that seriously undermines Microsoft”s claims and its credibility (read Tess Alps” article or the press release issued by the EGTA).

This spat throws light on a cleft that goes right to the heart of our media industry”s culture. In general, media folk can be neatly sorted into one of two camps. The first includes people with a “traditional” heritage rooted in TV, radio and newspapers etc. The second comprises the online new-comers who tend to hail from “technology” related backgrounds.

If the ding-dong started by Microsoft achieves nothing else, it does at least prove one ripe suspicion. The technology-heritage guys have casino jameshallison always been good at “data”, whereas the media-heritage folk have always been good at “research”.

This insight stands the other way around, too. We”ve always known that traditional media people have struggled with an inferiority complex about the Internet”s deluge of explicit user data (and its associated “analytics”) that provides the bed-rock for online media”s legendary accountability.

But it now appears that Microsoft has fallen into the simplest of bear-traps and demonstrated that even the biggest guys from media”s technology-heritage camp are not so very hot at doing implicit user research. In contrast, the “traditional” media camp has accumulated decades of experience in media measurement research that Microsoft should defer to and learn from.

This should be a wake-up call to both sides of the industry. Interpretation and synthesis of media data, whatever its source, will become ever more important as time rolls on. For the growth and vitality of the industry we need more people who can bridge the cultural divide that separates explicit data analytics from implicit media research.

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