It’s a multi-platform world, and media companies know it. A growing number of them have developed

But building cross-platform businesses isn’t just about building cross-platform properties. Media companies that have built respectable cross-platform properties need to measure just how many consumers use them.

With that in mind, ESPN is hoping to turn the biggest event in
sport, the World Cup, into a huge cross-platform measurement experiment
this year. As detailed by AdAge, ESPN has commissioned no less than four media measurement companies in an effort to learn not only how many consumers are consuming World Cup content across various platforms, but what all of that consumption really means.

It’s an ambitious plan no doubt, and ESPN is pulling out all the stops. It will, for instance, become the first commercial user of Nielsen’s electronic mobile panel. Through this panel, ESPN will have access to passive data, such as how many times mobile video clips are started and stopped.

Needless to say, ESPN’s effort is likely to raise just as many questions as it produces answers. And given that it’s doing things that haven’t been done before, it would be unrealistic to expect that there won’t be shortcomings. But unless big media companies like ESPN invest in these sorts of efforts, accurate and meaningful cross-platform measurement will remain some sort of pie-in-the-sky dream that everybody talks about, but nobody achieves.

ESPN is betting on success. According to AdAge, ESPN plans to invest in similar efforts in 2011, with the “ultimate goal of creating a system to measure cross-media audiences year-round
by 2012
“. And ESPN needs success. As a cross-platform media company, ESPN needs numbers to convince advertisers that the cross-platform advertising campaigns it can create for them offer the reach and value ESPN says they do.

If ESPN can pull it off, and provide a blueprint for other cross-platform media companies in the process, we will have two World Cup victors this July.

Photo credit: a4gpa via Flickr.