James Alexander has a wide range of research experience, most recently at The Weather Channel where he oversaw all areas of research including programming, marketing, sales, affiliates and off-platform. In this interview, Alexander talks about his experiences with CTAM, the challenges that research is facing in the current marketplace and trends that he envisions in consumer behavior.
 
What would you say is the biggest challenge to media researchers in the next couple of years?
 
As social researchers, we are challenged in choosing or creating the methodologies used in studies. We need to balance the science with practical considerations and find ways to leverage the inclusion of the latest technology. The Internet Quality debate taught us a great deal. Now it may be the use of mobile devices and social media that unlock the next wave of new research. Look at the successful companies that started out as web survey companies.
 
The conservatives among us were reluctant – too reluctant perhaps – to adopt the web as a tool, because we understand the value of the science that determines how a sample represents a population, and we weren’t sure how the internet would accurately sample from the general population. Can we embrace the convenience, targeting, cooperation rates and access provided by evolving technology and perhaps find ways to draw random samples and sample frames? That is a huge question and still a challenge.
 
With all the evolving media and splintering consumption, media researchers are challenged with quantifying the exposure in a meaningful and comparative way. It’s not enough to count eyeballs. With the exploding types of advertisements, integration targeting and exposures, the comparable unique user/viewer exposure has differing values for the advertiser, resulting in different effectiveness. 
 
Comcast announced the rollout of a new STB which combines television with the internet. Will that impact measurement and if so, how?
 
This raises questions about the measurement technology for the convergence of TV and the Internet. It could open doors to more directly link the consumer’s path from a TV spot to a Website with more information or to purchase.
 
These set-top boxes and the new televisions with Web browsing application capabilities provide an alternative for web and widget access on the TV. This should prove more popular than WebTV, but I don’t see it driving sales of TVs or set top boxes in the near term. 
 
Nielsen’s been busy preparing to report TV viewing on other devices starting with adding the Nielsen online meters to computers belonging to the Nielsen families in their sample. I imagine that this sets the table to make TV over IP or streamed to a computer a part of the total TV rating universe. Having a single combined currency becomes much easier when the streamed content is identical in commercial number and pod placement as the linear version. Nielsen’s likely thinking about how to get the online meter added to the television and set-top software.  
 
What will television usage from the consumer’s perspective look like five years from now?
 
My daughters tell me they’ve been watching TV but I know they haven’t had the TV set on. My decision to keep a set out of their room was effective until they figured out how to watch almost anything on their laptops using our wireless household Internet connection. To them, the content is labeled as "TV" (meaning a series), rather than the type of equipment.  
 
Based on more objective data, I expect the growing consumption of television content to continue, but the amount that is consumed linearly will begin to fall. The growth in IP-delivered streams of TV is dependent on the content and a consumer-friendly user interface from Netflix, Hulu and the cable providers.
 
It’s a very exiting time watching attempts at a business model that will attract the networks and producers to release their best content for viewing to paying subscribers or anyone. Until the content opens up, it could be that cord-cutting remains further out in the future. 
 
Please give me three predictions for the next five years.
 
OK. Here they are:
 
One: Tablet computers and cloud computing will combine to replace significant laptop
sales for the "light computing" consumers, whose use is about words rather than lots of data. Email, letters, correspondence are easily handled by a tablet that also is adept at Web, applications, and video content. The tablet will slide into a dock or keyboard at work to allow for the use of a fast and accurate keyboard. 
 
Two: As we place more trust in big computing companies with our business and personal data, both privacy and loss protection will be the next big debate and will replace web and social media privacy discussions. Wikileaks may convince consumers the only way to protect their personal information is to keep it off servers and in their homes unless corporations can address their fears.    
 
Three: Here is my reach prediction for the tech paranoid crowd. A new wave of cyber- enabled criminals will watch our routines and travel patterns to determine when to access our valuables online and at home. 
 
(In addition to this interview segment, there are three videos on www.WeislerMedia.blogspot.com, where Jim talks about his experiences at The Weather Channel and weather research in general. Charlene Weisler can be reached at WeislerMedia@yahoo.com).

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