Audience Measurement

Measuring Audiences

Audience measurement is critical to media brands and marketers alike. For international media there are additional challenges, as content is delivered across a range of media platforms and devices across multiple countries and regions.

Fortunately there are well-established methods which allow measurement of international audiences and a number of specialist providers who can help answer the key questions: who is watching, how they are watching and what platforms they are using – as well as extra information about their consumer and lifestyle choices.

Measuring international TV

TV audiences are measured in two main ways. The first way is to use set-top boxes which record TV viewing habits in homes considered ‘representative’ of a population. This allows for a reasonable attempt at counting how many people are watching each channel at any one time.

The other way is to survey people and ask them which TV channels they watch. This is usually asked along with other questions about themselves, their lifestyle habits and product choices to help build a broader picture of what each channel’s audience is like. This is the primary method of measurement for most international channels.

Syndicated Research Surveys

  • The purpose of syndicated surveys is to ask people information about themselves and their lifestyles, the kinds of media they like and the products they buy.
  • This helps media owners (such as TV channels, website owners and print publishers) to better understand their audiences.
  • It also helps media buyers (such as advertisers and agencies) to understand which media, or combination of media, to use to reach their target audiences.
  • Data from these surveys can also be used to estimate how many people can be reached with an advertising campaign. This can be done for different media (TV, print and online) and for different target audiences.

Audience Measurement Systems

  • Most countries in Europe established audience measurement systems (sometimes called peoplemeters) in the 1980s and 90s.
  • Measurement companies compile and distribute viewing figures. These are generally funded by the TV industry in each country and individual TV channels subscribe to receive the data.
  • A variety of households are chosen to ensure that people across the country are fairly represented. Each of these households has a set-top box which detects which channel is being watched on TV, and each person indicates when they are watching.
  • In some cases, the measurement extends to online TV streaming services which are measured by software installed on devices in the home.
  • All this data is sent automatically to the measurement company which then provides audience figures overnight to their subscribers. Consolidated figures, which include catch-up TV and online streaming services, are generally released a week or so later.

Online: Web Analytics & Audience Measurement

As with television audience measurement, there are different approaches to gauging online audiences. Additionally, syndicated research surveys can be used to gauge awareness and usage.

Web Analytics

Web analytics software is designed to measure of activity on a website, but doesn’t generally measure the behaviour of an individual person. A person could use a work and home computer to visit a site, but would be counted as a visitor to a website twice, once for each browser they use. Because this data is collected by a website owner, it is generally not made available publically. This limits its usefulness to the industry because it does not allow for a direct comparison between two competitor sites. It does allow site owners to monitor their own performance very accurately however, providing the basis for editorial decision-making and providing reports to advertisers about content and ad campaign performance.

Audience Measurement

Audience measurement provides a comparable estimate of the number of people (rather than browsers or devices) who visit a website. This is done by specialist providers who recruit a panel of users and track their online browsing habits, their use of different devices to access the internet and other information such as age, gender and household size. This behaviour is analysed and combined with visitor data provided voluntarily by website owners to try and draw a clearer picture of online activity. Because anyone can buy this data, it is useful for the media industry when comparing the performance of different websites and the kinds of people who use them. It is also useful for website owners, who can use the panel data to understand more about the demographics of their users and the performance of their competitors.
Web Analytics vs. Audience Measurement:

Data Providers

There are a number of products used by international media to understand their audiences. Click on the links below to find out more about them



  • Audience Measurement (People Meter) Systems
  • Nielsen