Nielsen Teams With Disney/ABC To Measure Consumers’ iPad Usage Behavior

A little bit of news from Nielsen that flew under the radar a few days ago hints at big things ahead for the measurement firm and its goals of understanding user behavior across all platforms. The company said it was teaming up with Disney/ABC Television Group to measure video consumption trends on the iPad.

In the study, participants will download a special “metering” app to their devices, which will analyze the reach, duration, frequency, and pageviews associated with both their apps and web usage in an effort to provide better insight into actual trends associated with user behavior, as opposed to self-reported data.

Although for many mainstream consumers, the name “Nielsen” is synonymous with TV ratings, the company actually provides analytics across a wide number of industries, including telecom, radio, music, video games, online, consumer and packaged goods, and more. In other words, it’s not surprising to see Nielsen branching out to help media companies better understand user behavior on a different platform besides the TV – that’s exactly what Nielsen does today.

As for Nielsen’s focus on the iPad, the firm understands the urgency in deciphering the iPad’s impact. Said the company in an announcement:

With Apple now reporting more than 55 million iPads sold to date and 3 million new iPads sold since March 16, the importance of understanding how, when, and where consumers use tablets is a top priority for the media industry.

Specifically, the new study will examine when app usage is heaviest on the iPad, as well as provide an overview of a “day in the life” of a tablet user who interacts with the ABC Player app.

Previous studies on usage behavior have indicated that tablet usage peaks at the morning and in the evening (after work), but some of those earlier reports were narrower in scope,  with data being sourced from individual app makers, for example. Meanwhile, other studies – like the often-cited report from comScore – focused more on general trends, and not necessarily those targeted towards users of a specific app, as in Disney/ABC’s case.

To be clear, however, the project that was announced with Disney/ABC is actually a custom study – it’s not a part of Nielsen’s broader efforts to understand consumer behavior on the iPad, particularly TV viewing. That’s not to say the firm isn’t heading down this path right now. The fact that they’ve already developed usage-analyzing software to do the job is very telling, as is the fact that Disney is turning to Nielsen for access to this “proprietary technology.” As Peter Seymour, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Research for Disney Media Networks, explains:

“We have been actively studying consumer tablet usage through our own data for two years,” he says, “and we believe that Nielsen’s proprietary technology has the potential to deliver unprecedented additional details about consumer viewing patterns.”

We’re also hearing that Nielsen is currently working on new ways to measure iPad users’ behavior, and those efforts are a major priority for the company for 2012.

Disney is not the first company to reach out to Nielsen for assistance in understanding media consumption across screens as of late. Earlier in March, media agency GroupM worked with the Nielsen to develop a new service to measure TV viewing that can track the total overlapped reach and frequency of ad campaigns across both traditional TV and online viewing. Although no mention of the iPad occurred at the time of the announcement, both companies said that consistent measurement across TV, the web “and beyond” was critical in understanding how, when and where ads were viewed – something that had been more difficult in the past because of the different metrics used for each platform.