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Executive Report - By Thomas Baekdal - October 2016

A Hard Look at YouTube Views vs TV Ratings

Over the past week, you might have seen many of us in the media industry discuss the problem with comparing YouTube views with TV ratings. It all started after YouTube released their viewer data for the second Presidential debate, where we were told that YouTube had 124 million views.

This sounded like a lot, especially when compared to the TV ratings, which only had 65.6 million viewers. So YouTube beat TV? Right?

Well, no.

This is the common problem we have every single time we talk about viewer metrics. We are simply not measuring the same thing, nor is the baseline for the measurements in any way aligned.

We have talked about this many times before, and it's a problem when we compare TV, print and digital. It's also a problem when we compare digital channels to other digital channels. Just think about the difference in how a view is measured between YouTube and Facebook. They are not remotely the same thing.

Not only are they measured in completely different ways, the consumption pattern is entirely different as well. There is a massive difference in intent, and recall rates between someone who just quickly come across a random video in their Facebook stream, and a 20 min video on YouTube that people have decided to sit down and watch.

Even if the measurements were the same, you still can't compare them. And it's the same when comparing YouTube to TV ratings.

But let me break it down for you, so that you can see exactly what was measured, and how they differ from each other.

Traditional metrics are pretty crappy too

One of the things I often see when media people start to debate digital metrics, is that there is a form of animosity towards digital metrics. Many people say that digital metrics are just one big scam, and the old metrics for TV and print are spot on.

This, of course, is not true. Digital metrics are pretty crappy in many ways, but so are the old metrics.

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Baekdal is a magazine for media professionals, focusing on media analysis, trends, patterns, strategy, journalistic focus, and newsroom optimization. Since 2010, it has helped publishers in more than 40 countries, including big and small publishers like Condé Nast, Bonnier, Schibsted, NRC, and others, as well as companies like Google and Microsoft.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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