Changing measurement benchmarks: smartphones and Twitter and Facebook, oh my

At the end of the first quarter of this year, I took a snapshot of some of the measurement data being released by three of the most prominent audience ratings firms in the U.S.: Nielsen (of course), Rentrak and comScore. Nielsen had just begun to follow the lead of its younger, more multiscreen-concentrated cousins and added a social media engagement metric to its ratings reports, and so for the first time the industry had a chance to compare how each firm was looking at engagement around TV series both on traditional television and online.

Now as second-quarter numbers roll in, we have a chance to look at yet another metric the ratings firms are paying close attention to: smartphone usage.

Considering the explosion in mobile video over the past year alone, it's not surprising that comScore and Nielsen in particular are looking at how much video is consumed over smartphones. What is interesting is the amount of data they are willing to report, suggesting that much more is going on behind the scenes at these firms.

Both Nielsen and comScore released figures not just around how many Americans are watching video on their smartphones versus their desktop computers, but also around how much time they spend watching mobile video. Nielsen, for example, found that between January and May 2015, U.S. adults aged 18 and up averaged 38 minutes per week of mobile video watch time. That may not sound like a lot to some, but consider that the most popular form of video consumed on smartphones is short-form video running between 2 and 20 minutes (the definition of short-form video in terms of length still varies widely). The number of videos watched on mobile phones can add up quickly.

With Verizon poised to launch its new over-the-top, mobile-oriented streaming service -- perhaps as early as September -- getting a smartphone measurement metric in place is critical for ratings firms.

Take a look at our latest snapshot of measurement data from comScore, Nielsen and Rentrak. Keep in mind these are widely disparate numbers, so no comparison between them is drawn. But it can give a view into the kind of numbers these firms are seeing from multiscreen audiences. -- Sam