Monday, October 29, 2007

"Hey Nielsen" What About Books?

Nielsen is capturing the true voice of the consumer with the launch of their new “Hey Nielsen” social networking website. Designed to capture consumers immediate reactions to television, movie and music programming, the site launched in beta a few weeks ago. Nielsen is the market researcher most responsible for what we end up watching, listening to and going to see. They are not necessarily responsible for what we read however, but more on that later. Nielsen hopes that the Hey Nielsen site becomes the social monitor for all pop culture although my initial experimentation with the site seems to indicate that most people are focused on television.

Hey Nielsen works by ranking positive or negative comments based on the volume of submissions related to specific content. A “Hey Nielsen” score is attributed accordingly. Essentially, this social website becomes a panel: Perhaps not as organized or managed as a traditional Nielsen panel but by definition more broad based. Nielsen will be able to capture the immediate feedback generated by new shows, music, movies and other media – even celebrities. This could be a fundamental step forward over the old model of set top boxes and exit surveys.

Crucially for the book industry we don’t have such a facility and it is ironic that Nielsen having such a research presence in the book industry has not placed books into to the Hey Nielsen network. We are generally familiar with the BookScan POS service but it has been left largely to subscribers of this service (both in the UK and US) to derive their own insight into what the raw data suggests about sales trends, tastes and mores. I read about Hey Nielsen before I went to Frankfurt and it was at the supply chain meeting that Nielsen presented more of what we would like to see of their analysis capability.

In a presentation entitled
Towards a Better Understanding of a Consumer Jonathan Nowell and Julie Meynick discussed the existing publishing market and environment. The suggested for example that contrary to conventional belief the publishing market in the UK is reasonably healthy with unit sales up 5.4% over last year and up 43% since 2001. In comparison with other media – particularly TV and newspapers – book readership has more than held its own. They followed this over view with some statistics on where books were selling and what genres were moving. There would be little surprise that published material such as hotel and travel guides, dictionaries and astrology are not competing well with online alternatives and are seeing decreased sales.

The last segment of the presentation concerned a review of the panel HarperCollins constructed to better understand their readers. (It is not clear how much direct involvement Nielsen had in this research). Researchers asked over 1000 people to rank how they used different media for different tasks and also describing their visceral reactions to what reading and books meant to them. Nielsen sales data was used to build demographic profiles of readers which in turn has been used by Harpercollins to develop genre profiles of the types of book purchasers that were attracted to specific genres. In the presentation, Nielsen showed the seven defined profiles within Cooking as an example. Each of these profiles has deeper demographic information associated with it to describe the buyers in this segment.

Nielsen showed in this presentation how psychographic data from panel information and sales information from point of sale data could be merged to create a more detailed set of information about existing and potential consumers. This information in turn creates the framework for effective marketing and promotion campaigns that should drive sales.

I saw Nowell later the next day and told him the presentation was interesting and why they couldn’t do something like this in the US. After a pause, he told me to wait and see. In the short term, why can’t they use Hey Nielsen?

No comments: