measuring, printing, publishing, reporting, sampling

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…

debating, listing, reporting

Homogeneous, Old School and Plutomanic: what Adnews’ Power 50 says about the state of Australian media

last week Adnews arrived on my desk.  it featured a pull-out of it's 'Power 50' – a list of the top 50 "power brokers in Australian Advertising, Media and Marketing".  it makes for interesting reading.  it pretty much lists fifty white, male chief executives and directors, many of which have familial or other connections within the industry.

Adnews compiled the list "by taking into account a set of criteria
including budgets and staff under control; breadth of responsibilities;
levels of independence and authourity; connections; company performance;
community standing; and industry respect".  and claim themselves to be
"confident the 50 who have made the cut represent the most powerful and
influential people in the industry".

but if this list represents the power and influence within our industry, exactly what does it say out our industry?

one.  that they're a homogeneous bunch.  predominantly white and male; only four and a half entries in the fifty (9%) are women (the half is, at #4, Harvey Norman Holdings' Managing Director Katie Page, who is married to the Executive Chairman of the same company Gerry Harvey).

two.  that our industry is so old school it makes MadMen look like reality TV.  John Hartigan at #2 "has led the defence of the Australian newspaper industry, forcefully arguing why mastheads here are more robust than in North America and Britain" … David Thoday (#5), Chief Exec of Telstra was wrong-footed by the decline in the use of telephone landlines, commenting that "the decline has been more severe than we realised" … Kate McKensie (at #8) is therefore the person at Telstra responsible for holding back the tide, I mean "halt the decline of Telstra's fixed-line business" … and at #31 we have Joe Talcott, who only this year was quoted as claiming that "no one sits down to 'watch the internet'".

Richard Freudenstein, CEO of The Australian and NDM at #14 commented at at recent event the that "rise of aggressive technological companies" may prove "potentially quite disruptive to professional media companies" … at the time I left readers to consider in their own time the choice of the words 'potentially' and 'quite'.

and what of those aggressive technological companies … even those on the list who it could be argued represent a more contemporary and evolving view of 21st Century media – Google GM Karim Temsamani at #12, or Facebook's regional manager of sales Paul Borrudat #21 – are there less because of their insight into a changing media ecology and rather because they're in charge.

three.  a browse of the entries makes it more than apparent what, according to Adnews, power is based on…  in fact it's hard to find an entry that doesn't refer to either spending, buying or selling power.  money, and channeling and making as much of it as possible is, it would seem, pretty much the only name of the game that is the Australian Advertising, Media and Marketing industry right now.  Adnews would have us all cast as plutomaniacs.

now not for a second I am suggesting that we're not an industry of commercial organisations, the continued existence of which is dependent on profit generation and growth.  my point is that this fact is so patently obvious that it shouldn't need saying.  yet Adnews says it.  fifty times.

the upshot of all this is that whilst I don't have issues with any of the individuals on the list, I do have a lot of issues with the list.  the advertising, media and marketing industry has never seen the pace of change we are currently witnessing.  the opportunity of creating a list of this type is not the reinforce the past but point the direction to the future.

the opportunity was to invest in a supplement that gave all of us who work in this industry an indication on where the thinking, innovation and evolution of the communications industry in Australia is happening.  in doing so, the opportunity was for a trade title to help set and shape the agenda for our industry.  it is an opportunity very much missed.