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Measuring Audience in Old vs. New Advertising Platforms: Overview


Can you hear me now? Can you see me now? Is anyone out there, anyone at all?

Yes, Toto, someone is out there listening; someone is out there watching. But I’m sure you want to know how I know. Well, because we’re marketers, it’s part of our job to know how many individuals are being engaged by the advertisements we put out there.

Too vague for you? OK then, let me give you a briefing on practices for measuring audience size while using old (print, TV and radio) and new (online and internet radio) platforms to advertise on. Important to note: I will be tending to measurement of audience size – the “how many,” not the “who they are.”

I think the best way to explain how audience size is measured across different platforms is via bullet form, as is done below:


  • Print: Print is pretty straightforward. It’s based on the circulation number of the publication the ad is placed in, in addition to the number of days the ad is run. The problem with advertising on print platforms is: there is no guarantee that, of the NY Times’ (example) 800-900,000 weekly print subscribers, all of those individuals will actually see the ad. As for learning more about the audience of the print platform, a marketer must take the information provided by the publication in question, and extrapolate from there.

  • TV/Radio Traditional TV and radio audiences are measured in the past, in a somewhat inaccurate way – at least, inaccurate compared to online methods:

o   The Diary: The diary is kept by listeners/watchers, and the audience member is tasked to record their habits. This method has always been prone to mistakes and forgetfulness of the audience member.

o   Electronic: Products have been developed for both platforms that are made to track activity on either device, TV or radio. From there, the separate devices are able to actually get objective numbers, not only in terms of total audience, but also, their viewing/listening habits.

§  Often, companies (e.g. Nielsen Media) that quantify audiences attempt to put together statistically significant groups of people for testing, and then provide the sample group with tracking devices to monitor the groups’ viewing/listening habits.

o   The problem, however, with advertising via traditional TV/Radio is similar to Print: the audience size data is not completely objective and removed from statistical reasoning.


  • Online: The nature of the connection between a computer and a website is send (output) and receive (input). As such, it is easy to track online audience, especially in relation to a particular advertisement, because every time a user connects with a website, they are both sending/receiving information.

One of the most useful pieces of information that is tracked, which assists in measuring an audience is the IP address. The IP (Internet Protocol) address is a numerical label assigned to your computer while it is participating on a network. The IP address also provides the location of the user connecting with a site! Further, these days, there are numerous analytics-based services (e.g. Google Analytics) that allow site owners to view data of all visitors to their site.

  • Internet radio: Internet radio audience is measured incredibly accurately. Because of the online platform, marketers are able to receive plenty of useful information from the listener: IP addresses, how long they listened, and their computer’s operating system and browser.

As you can see, measuring audience is significantly easier (in comparison to the old methods) on new, digital platforms, mostly because of the nature of the Internet and the platform itself; they act as two-way devices, sending and receiving information.

Interestingly, the lack of highly objective methods to measure an audience does not negate the relevance of any platform. The fact of the matter is: there is still an audience to be reached. They are listening. They are watching. Now, find ‘em.



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