How Bad is Survey Data? For Mobile Video, Really Bad

Wow. Nielsen recently compared their survey data with actual usage data to measure quarterly video viewing on phones & tablets.

According to the survey data, people watched 5 hours 23 minutes of video in Q4 2013. According to the Electronic Mobile Measurement tool (which measures actual mobile usage), people watched 1 hour 23 minutes. That’s right, survey data overstates this by something like 500%.

Two quick lessons emerge:

1. People are clearly overstating how much video they’re watching on their phones & tablets. So adjust down with numbers you see.

2. We should, as always, be very cautious about relying on self-reported survey data for measuring people’s behavior. Surveys are great at measuring beliefs, though–which are just as important. But this makes me wonder how people really use their mobile phone while shopping, for instance, vs. what they might say in a survey.