Earlier this month Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. died. He left behind a giant and reputable market research company and a brand name recognized throughout the world. The A.C. Nielsen company was started by his father and in its early years tracked the sales of goods through grocery and drug stores. The company then moved into media tracking and became the authoritative source for measuring audience size and demographics. Nearly every company with an advertising budget continues to rely on Nielsen data to determine where to advertise and how much to spend.
Nielsen’s legacy is that he demonstrated the value of collecting and tracking data, and lots of it. Every item we purchase is now logged, counted, and tracked. Every television and radio show is tracked for how many viewers it has and in what markets they live. And of course everything we do on the Internet is recorded and tracked. Even our bodily locations are tracked via GPS or cell phone signals. Most market research firms today generate the bulk of their revenue simply by collecting, tracking, tabulating, and reporting data.
This important legacy has left us with tons of data, growing at an exponential rate, and a monumental challenge of how to synthesize it and move beyond mere tabulation and reporting. The question is, how do we meet that challenge and take Nielsen’s legacy to the next frontier? In our view, it will involve two key efforts: