Starting the Big Sell: How The Readership Works started the debate with agencies over the future of readership measurement in Australia

The_Readership_Works the start of the debate: representatives of The Readership Works present to media agencies last night at The Mint

so last evening saw the start of what is likely to be a long conversation between the media agency and The Readership Works, the body tasked with creating a new readership survey for Australia's media industry.

we began with a well-trodden story – the world has changed.  only, it turns out, measurement metrics haven't.  the evening was on oportunity for The Readership Works (TRW) to present how they intend to put that right.  we began with the challenges:

  1. people don't fill in surveys any more (in fact it turns out that three quarters of people flat refuse to do so these days)
  2. advertisers need more and better data (yup)
  3. other media are delivering (no doubt last year's MOVE is front and centre of TRW's mind – especially given the gestation period that this project has had)
  4. print media are no longer print media (well quite … in fact I'd question whether or not it's in their interest to still be called print media but that's a debate for another day)

so what do we want and when do we want it?  well we want – it turns out – more higher quality data, delivered in a 'more timely' manner, transparency in how it's delivered and reported.  plus we'd also like it to be future-proofed and developed in collaboration with agencies (and therefore advertisers).

all of which sounds like a lot, but saying "we need to stop doing face-to-face interviews and filling in paper questionnaires" is a bit like saying "let's stop using horse drawn trams to get people around".  similarly the idea that we need to measure readership beyond the printed page is a great deal less surprising than the fact that we don't seem to be currently doing it.

so all headed in the right direction…  a survey that:

  • collects information via a screen-based interview
  • generates new insights on how magazines build readership over time
  • provides better data on regional and community titles via smarter sampling
  • measures readership across all platforms (so print and online for now, but – in response to my question – once critical mass is reached on tablets and phones too)
  • delivers insights beyond readership, be it on sections, engagement, and new lifestyle statements (although I'd recommend that you brace yourself for still being able to tell clients that their readers are leaders not followers)
  • offers richer and deeper information on the purchase and consumption habits of readers via IPSOS' BRANDpuls

all of which, in the warm light of the next day, feels very solid and in the right direction.  it would be easy to be cynical about the whole event, but the reality is that the industry needs a better measurement system than the one we currently have.  one that its reflective of the evolution of publisher brands (ie not print brands) beyond paper, but that also plugs this information into data about what those readers think and buy.

for perhaps not obvious reasons TRW were reluctant to share details of the methodology.  there is after all an elephant in the room.  that elephant is Roy Morgan Research, who have in effect now become the competition to TRW's survey…

this put the audience in the rather curious position of being pitched a product that will inevitably create potential painful change in the market, by a body on which those same agencies have representation.  when you take into account the fact that the introduction of the new survey will require not only the philosophical backing but the financing (in part) by those agencies, you begin to see why last night's event was so important.  the big sell has only just begun…

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