Man versus machine: it’s not just the stuff of science fiction; the dichotomy arises in pretty much any kind of business you can think of, and numerous other areas. This can lead to some soul-searching questions.
When it comes to media measurement, the answer to whether you should rely on human or automated data analysis can best be answered with a clear understanding of your desired outcome, and the unique benefits of each system.
As with most things in life, it’s a trade-off. Generally, automated analysis systems are cheaper and faster, but provide inferior data when compared to human-operated systems. Your decision will depend on what you’d like to achieve.
The benefits of automated systems are that they are generally cost less and can be used to focus on specific quantitative outputs, ie ‘brand mentions made on a Wednesday’. All that needs to happen then is for a member of your team to come along and extract the data you need.
However, it’s vital all the relevant key words, and that their variants are correct, or you risk missing out on important chunks of data.
Furthermore, research shows that automated systems that claim to measure sentiment only get it right around 50% of the time – that’s a wide margin of error when it comes to monitoring whether or not the information people are hearing about your brands is positive or negative.
While human-edited data will cost more, the resulting increase in quality often makes it worth the investment. To name just a few benefits, humans can more accurately judge sentiment, better identify the topics within an article, monitor whether a key message is implicitly mentioned, and notice language subtleties that may otherwise be missed.
When conducting media analysis, it’s also important to recognise that doing it yourself is almost always a bad idea. It’s likely that someone who worked on the project will be responsible for measuring the results, which makes an objective analysis difficult.
At the end of the day, while your budget and objectives will go a long way towards determining whether you go down the automated or human route, it’s worth bearing in mind this old adage: if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.