Wednesday, August 01, 2012

An alternative to TAM for TV viewership data?

I've never been able to understand how media planners take TAM viewership data seriously. As per the 2011 Indian Census, about 50% households in India have a TV set.  Even if we take the 2001 data [1] for total number of households we would end up with 125 million TV sets in India. (the 2011 data is still being compiled, but its safe to assume that this number would have only grown).

TAM viewership data is based on a sample size of 3,454 out of those [2]

A sample size of 3,454 out of 125,000,000 TV sets.

I want you to back-up and read that line again. Digest those numbers.

Leave alone statistical significance, in what world would a 0.0028% sample give even directionally correct data? Thousands of crores of advertising money every year is being budgeted & spent based on data collected from such a small sample size.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Satyamev Jayate Impact : Interest In Issues Piqued By 7x!

Following up on my first post on the impact of Satyamev Jayate I'd like to begin with a serious, serious errata. In the previous post I calculated the percentage rise in search volumes incorrectly. Here's the real impact Satyamev Jayate had in raising awareness around the issues in focus:
  • Female foeticide: Searches rose by 610% (!) the week the first episode aired. That's a whopping 7x increase in the average search volume. However, the interest has steadily declined over the past 3 weeks and is now about twice the average interest before the show. I'd say that's still an amazing achievement. Sustaining the countries interest in an issue for 4 weeks at 2x (and more) its regular interest is legendary.
  • Child abuse: Again the interest/searches increased by 610% in the week the show aired. Even now the general public is showing 2.5 times more interest than before the show aired.
  • Dowry/NRI brides: Interest increased by 150% initially and is down by 40% the next week itself.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Satyamev Jayate - Quantifying the impact

Aamir's new show - Satyamev Jayate - is the new hot thing.
  • It's breaking all TRP records [1]
  • It's trending on Twitter every Sunday - for more than 24 hours [2]
  • It's got more than 3 million channel views on YouTube within two weeks
  • About 780,000+ likes on Facebook and 26,000+ followers on Twitter. 

Any "social media expert" would be willing to give his hand & leg for those kind of numbers on a campaign under his/her watch!

Let's shift our attention away from the show itself, to the issues that the show is talking about. Here's what Google Insights tells us about female foeticide and child abuse (the issues raised in the first two episodes of the show):

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Dirty "Pitcher" and Internet "Penetration" in India

The movie was quite a "jugful" - wouldn't you say?

Moving on to a serious note, can this be used to demonstrate how the Internet is penetrating (sorry, couldn't help the double entendre :) ) the tier 2 & tier 3 cities. Places where English is probably a poor cousin.

Good times for the Internet in India, I say. Except the rampant censorship on the rise. That, is pretty sad.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Traffic comparison: Alexa vs Google Trends vs Compete vs ComScore

I cringe every time someone pulls traffic/audience numbers from Alexa for competition/market research. Alexa is simply bullshit when it comes to Indian websites. But, what about other such tools? Have you ever wondered where & how these website traffic-research tools get their data?


Here's what Alexa discloses (emphasis mine):
Alexa computes traffic rankings by analyzing the Web usage of millions of Alexa Toolbar users and data obtained from other, diverse traffic data sources.
The traffic data are based on the set of toolbars that use Alexa data, which may not be a representative sample of the global Internet population.
That's right. They get their data from people who download and install Alexa toolbars. They mention "other, diverse traffic data sources" about 8 times on that page, but fail to mention, even once, what those "other, diverse" sources could be.


Here's how Compete does it (emphasis mine):
Compete’s clickstream data are collected from a 2,000,000 member panel of US Internet users (about a 1% sample), using diverse sources.
Compete’s panel measures US, but not international users. Compete has worked diligently to develop what it believes is the largest and most diverse panel of online consumers in the United States.
Compete also fails to mention their "diverse sources", but at least they mention the sample size (2 million) and sample geography (US internet users) very clearly. Their claim of "about a 1% sample" is also correct: total internet users in North America are about 272 million (source).


And here's ComScore's methodology:
Central to most comScore services is the comScore panel, the largest continuously measured consumer panel of its kind. With approximately 2 million worldwide consumers under continuous measurement
comScore recruits panelists through a variety of online methods designed to ensure a demographically-balanced and representative sample.

ComScore's methodology page is the biggest mish-mash of marketing gobbledygook I've ever seen. And a sample-size of 2 million worldwide is the biggest joke! That would make it a 0.1% sample size based on the world internet user population of approx 2 billion (source). Probably a 0.1% sample size is statistically significant on a global scale, but how does that distribution change for India? Is their sample size in India also statistically significant? They fail to mention that.

And I'm not sure what these "variety of online methods" to recruit panelists are. I have been spending at least 5-6 hours each-day on the Internet since the last 7 years, but have NEVER been solicited by ComScore to become a panelist. Neither has anyone I know.

Google Trends for Websites

Compare this to how Google Trends for Websites generates its data (emphasis mine):
Trends for Websites combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, aggregated opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in consumer panel data, and other third-party market research.
Google Search and Google Analytics are the core data-sources that power Google Trends for Websites. For the uninitiated, most websites in India would be getting 30% or more of their traffic from Google (paid + organic). Google Analytics is the most widely used analytics system on the Indian internet scene.


Now think - how many users have you seen (in India) with an Alexa toolbar installed? Is anyone you know on the ComScore panel? Compare that to how many people you've seen using Google Search? People entering domain names in Google (eg. enter '' as search query on Google)? Websites that use Google Analytics for measuring+analyzing their visitor data?

I'd bet my money on Google Trends for Websites any day for researching the Indian internet scene. What about you?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Advertising as a business model?

If it was not already well-known that Internet advertising as a way to make money is extremely hard, today's Facebook IPO filing gives us more data to support it. In 2011, 85% of Facebook's total revenue (USD 3.711 billion) came through advertising, which is approximately USD 3.15 billion. That's HUGE! However, what is equally huge is their MAU (monthly active users) number at 845 million in Dec-2011. If we take some approximations and do the math, it means Facebook managed to make barely 36 cents per active-user, per-month.

Yes. Barely 36 cents per-active user, per-month. [1]

According to Alexa, Facebook gets an average of 13 pageviews per-user per-day. According to this report each user visits Facebook an average of 40 times per-month. This would mean:

  • a minimum of approx 440 billion pageviews (!) in Dec-2011 [2]
  • a maximum CPM of 60 cents per thousand page views [3]

Yes. Barely 60 cents CPM. On a per-impression basis this number could be 3x lower because Facebook has about 3 ads per page.

And that's the #2 website in the world. No wonder traditional publishing companies are dying everyday - not everyone can have close to a billion active users to allow a few cents per-user to cover their costs. Internet advertising is such a horrible monetization model. We have to think of something better!

[1] And that's the number per active-user. If we compute this for total users, the number will be much lower.
[2] 845 monthly-active-users  x 13 pageview per-user per-day x 40 visits. Not the best calculation, but good enough to give us a minimum value
[3] USD 3.15 billion divided by 12, to get the average monthly revenue, divided by 440 billion pageviews x 1,000. Again, I know, not the best, but good enough to give us a ballpark.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

"First they came for the communists..."

The biggest promise of the World Wide Web was the free flow of ideas & information. It is coming to a swift end. Very sad, indeed.

I wonder what Tagore would say about this:
"Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;" 
PS: For those wondering about the post title, read the entire poem/quote

Sunday, January 01, 2012

10 Wishes for a Digital 2012

Q: What's better than kickstarting a new year with a new post?
A: Kickstarting with a list post!

Here are 10 wishes for the digital space in the year 2012:
  1. May we find something better than advertising to monetize content on the Internet. (Flattr?). That, or, may ads become less annoying and unobtrusive.
  2. May everyone and their uncle STOP making mobile apps, because, it's the in-thing, you know. Mobile optimized websites will work as well, thank you.
  3. May we fix the mobile payment ecosystem [1].
  4. May e-Commerce websites stop bleeding cash.
  5. May daily deal sites graduate from hair/tattoo/nail-art/massage spas... and NOT get into the regular e-Commerce category.
  6. May we get a payment aggregator that doesn't suck. Serious, the bar is that low! (Zaakpay?)
  7. May we get a some digital marketing agencies that don't suck. Again, the bar is that low!
  8. May Google stop screwing advertisers and users over. Seriously, how many 'organic search results' do you see these days? [2]
  9. May telecom operators & TRAI figure out a way to stop SMS spam that actually works. Without crippling the SMS system completely.
  10. And finally, may we preserve and extend freedom on the Internet. And not get snooped/monitored in everything we do online. [3]

[1] It's very easy to bring up-to-speed with the desktop Internet ecosystem. Hint: Mobile optimized 3D-Secure & Netbanking. At least seems to be moving in the right direction

[2] Tell me where to stop: hiding referrer information for free/organic traffic, but NOT paid traffic. Ad sitelinks & umpteen other 'ad extensions'. Flight meta-search widget. Hotel meta-search widget. Stuffing hotel related searches with place results. Media ads

[3] SOPA. Protect-IP. Internet censorship (or 'pre-screening'). Sec 69 of Indian IT Act 2008.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Android fragmentation? Don't get me started!

I've been playing around with Android development lately and it's been a fairly "interesting" ride so far. Well, apart from the horror that programming in Java is (I'll leave that rant for a separate post).

One extremely frustrating facet of designing an app for the Android platform is the plethora of devices with varying screen sizes out there. Coming from a web background, where you pick a minimum screen resolution and get going, it's a rude shock. Android's own guide on supporting multiple screens recommends having four (!) versions of bitmap resources (pictures).

I did a quick survey on Flipkart for the screen sizes & resolutions of all Android phones under Rs 18,000, which I'm assuming would be the top sellers in India. Here's the data (the first column is the screen resolution in pixels, the second column is the diagonal length of the screen in inches, and the third column is the number of handsets available in that particular combination):

So, while designing for Android, you have the mental overhead of thinking about more than 12 screen size & resolution combinations. That's right -- more than twelve. Contrast that with iPhone, where it's just two, I think -- one for normal displays and one for retina displays. Contrast that with the web, where, till some time back, you had to basically pick between designing for a minimum of 800x600 or 1024x768.

Based on the screen classification proposed by Android, even if this number can be brought do half, that would leave us with more than 6 possible outcomes! I haven't even started looking at supporting multiple API versions (2.2, 2.3, 3.0, 4.0, etc.) and multiple device capabilities (scroll wheel, D-pad, etc. etc.) I'm afraid I'll give-up even before I reach that point!

Is there any report out there which segments: (a) the amount spent on the Android market &  (b) the in-app advertising revenue, by the handset capability / screen size / etc? I'm sure app developers would be willing to pay for it, to save themselves the time spent on handsets generating a few hundred rupees, at best.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Interesting outdoor advertising & signage

I really love Blackberry Playbook's outdoor campaign. They're all over the airports and communication at each spot has been designed according to the context. I spotted this sign at the Delhi airport departure terminal - as soon as you walk out from the plane, into the terminal. Brilliant message for the context!

The message reads - "That laptop bag. Heavy, isn't it?"

Close on its heels was this outdoor ad by Google. Bang above the luggage conveyor belt. The baggage that Google is referring to is the tech infrastructure required to keep your business running. Lose it & move to hosted Google apps. Brilliant, yet again! Unless you've actually lost your bags - either case, hard to forget this ad :-)

"Some baggage is worth losing" - An ad by Google for its hosted business solutions
This outdoor spot by Gorbatschow Vodka is as bizarre as they come. What was the brand/marketing manager thinking? "Pole dancer by night. Mother by day. Whoever you are, be pure." Seriously?
"Pole dancer by night. Mother by day" - WTF!
This one was spotted at Laxmi Nagar, Delhi. "Good Looks Beauty Parlour. A Female Stoppage" 'Nuff said!

"A Female Stoppage" 
And this one take the cake. From the Lucknow airport. I've been to many airports in India, but have never, ever come across this sign anywhere else! "Please don't put your kids on baggage conveyor" Imagine what a shock the baggage handlers on the other side must be getting :) It happens only in UP!

"Papa, papa - jhoola ghumao!"