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Stacey Lynn Schulman, SVP, Chief Research Officer, TVB
Picture yourself waiting on-line somewhere, waiting your turn to be served. Chances are good that you might check out the latest issue of people magazine – or even better that you’d look up and start watching some local television until it was your turn in the queue.
Did you picture yourself standing at a checkout counter? It could be, but it’s just as likely that you were using digital media online. Because in society today, the
media of a person’s digital life can be interchangeable with their offline life. Today, there are fewer avenues to “traditional media” via traditional platforms than ever.
The fact is, it’s now impossible to separate “television” from “digital” because they’re one. Since 2009, outside of a handful of low-power television signals, all commercial television is digital. Even over-the-air- only homes have to have a digital TV set, or at least a converter box.
It turns out that changing the infrastructure is easier than changing perceptions. It’s hard to hear the word “digital” without instantly associating it with a dot-com. But not including television within any discussion of digital media is really grossly portraying the role that digital plays in our lives today.
A recent post by Mediapost Editor-in-Chief, Joe Mandese, points out that thinking of ‘digital’ as being synonymous with ‘online’ is problematic. Mandese goes on to call out as “dubious” an eMarketer report that “shows” that people’s time spent with digital media will surpass TV viewing for the first time this year. These things are impossible to separate now – TV’s DNA is the same as the Internet’s DNA. They’re all Ones and Zeroes.
But the connections are seen beyond the base coding of the media’s distribution. Television’s digital footprint is undeniable. Every station will have a website, mobile apps, and online video, not to mention presence on Facebook, Twitter and nearly any other social media available today. Digital subchannels allow stations to make use of the digital spectrum to offer multiple layers of content without needing to be anywhere near a computer, and Mobile Digital TV allows TV to be part of people’s lives anywhere they are.
It's important to remember that no matter the platform, television content is the driving force behind time spent. Television remains the most-used medium of American consumers, and this, in turn, stimulates user-driven content within social media. Americans talk about what we watch and trade on that knowledge in social circles online and off. At once public and personal, TV content is impactful across platforms because it is our cultural currency.
From a research perspective, it would be advantageous to be able to separate non-television content from television content in online digital metrics. But since that’s not easily done, it’s even more critical that we develop and support methodologies for accurately aggregating interaction with TV content across all platforms, both national and local alike.
So the next time you read a claim about digital as an entity separate from television, ask yourself how representative a story would be about all Americans if the story stopped at the original thirteen colonies. Without television, you’re missing most of the picture.