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Media measurement trends

- By Jaco Pienaar, Professional Evaluation and Research (PEAR)

As any communication or brand focused professional clearly knows, media is constantly evolving. Traditional media, which predominantly focused on print, then radio and television, are becoming more digitised and starts pushing reach into the online space. This, of course, gives larger potential to even the smallest of publishers to attract a global audience instead of being bound by geographical limitations. Web-based media in general, therefore, brings to the forefront a number of exciting opportunities as well as a multitude of potential risks. This emphasised also by the continuous growth of access, especially with technological advances in terms of mobile and tablets. Media measurement, accordingly, should also be constantly evolving to keep with the times.

Traditional measurement, rooted in the quantitative space – examining metrics such as Advertising Value Equivalence (AVE), quantity of mentions, circulation, audience and readership are not enough anymore. This does still have statistical validity, but does not answer the big questions comprehensively. The shift in the field is making the move, albeit slowly, from ‘how much’ to ‘what does it mean’. This seems obvious, but there still seems to be a clear divide between practitioners that just want high values and a large clip count to practitioners that see this as secondary to the impact of a message.

Jaco Pienaar

A single article placed well and reaching the specific intended audience often has more intrinsic value to a brand than ten mismatched, untargeted mentions. The first group might then argue that ten articles build more brand prominence than the single article. And they would also not necessarily be wrong. That seems to be the only consistency within the media measurement space – there is really no right or wrong way to analyse media. Measurement is outcomes driven and must, whichever way you approach it, have strategic value for you and your client. This strategic value, however, is constantly changing with the changes in the media space. This is why the importance of the message is increasing in value. It is about knowing which medium to use and how to measure that medium’s impact. Qualitative measurement should not be seen as supporting quantitative measurement, it should be the other way around.

A clear measurement trend is asking new questions constantly. An example of this: Your brand is mentioned less than your competitor, but your reach is higher. What type of message is prevalent? Is it favourable or unfavourable? What is the context? What is the quality of the placement? Is the reach relevant to the message? In which medium is this – print, broadcast, or online? What is the long and medium term impact of this content? Is it being spoken about also on the social media space? The balance between quality and quantity is clearly evident.

On the topic of social media, this is clearly a growing trend in the communication space, not only in terms of messaging and client interaction, but also in terms of measurement. As social media analysis is still a relatively new field, there is a definite excitement around it. There are currently so many ways to look at it and it is not nearly as settled as traditional media measurement. The importance here definitely seems more in the space of measuring influence and interactions, and gives brands a clearer way to come to grips with who is starting conversations, who are potential brand ambassadors and detractors, and what profile they have. Also, importantly, who do these individuals influence?

There is a trickle down factor where people, who are not necessarily directly linked to your brand, are influenced by who they follow or are friends with on the social space who do comment on you. A great practical example of the potential reach, compared to traditional media, is the 2000 film, Pay It Forward. The premise derived from this is that Person A shares a message, which is seen by Person B, who shares with Person C and D, who shares with E, F, G, H, and so on, and before you know it, tens of thousands of people see the comment. The growth is uncontrollable and potential brand impact unfathomable.

The measurement metrics assigned to each medium, can therefore not be copy and paste. Each medium is unique and has different potential strategic value and outcomes. Getting coherence is the tricky task. Messages on print, broadcast, online and social media need consistency, which can only be gained by strategically measuring each on its own merit and requirements. The better the measurement, the better the strategic understanding, the better the strategic planning. Strategy is based on understanding. Understanding is reached through measurement.   

Written by Jaco Pienaar,Professional Evaluation and Research (PEAR)

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