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In with the old, in with the new

13 Jun 2019  |  Denise Turner 
In with the old, in with the new

When it comes to measuring and reporting adspend, the industry is stuck in the same old rut, writes Denise Turner

‘Out with the old, in with the new’ is a very common phrase, but no one is really sure where it came from. It became part of the vernacular in 1976, when Logan’s Run was on TV. In the series, it is the year 2274 and anyone under the age of 30 lives a protected, sheltered life within the confines of a domed city and cannot leave. But the domed city is not that big, so the population must be controlled. Those in power tell the citizens that once a person reaches age 30, they are ritually killed, whereupon they will be reincarnated. This was referred to as “out with the old, in with the new,” getting rid of over 30’s to make room for under 30’s.

Thankfully that doesn’t happen in media (though I do sometimes feel very old)! But we have always been obsessed with shiny new things, and often the inclination is to ditch the old. A trend that has been exacerbated with the advent of online. The word ‘digital’ is often used interchangeably with online – and even that word seems to illustrate the problem – digital is about separating things into 1 or 0, making binary choices.

However like life, media isn’t binary. For what seems like forever, we’ve been discussing short-term vs long-term and everyone agrees it’s not one or the other, but how you blend them.

All media are multi-platform these days, with content being delivered in multiple different ways. Yet currencies and measurement often struggle to keep up with the complexity of the media world, and the fact that things aren’t binary. Matt Hill from Thinkbox wrote a piece for Mediatel a couple of months ago, illustrating that point, addressing the issue of how we measure advertising spend.

I am in violent agreement! This has been an obsession of mine since I joined Newsworks four years ago – in fact I wrote a piece on this very topic for Mediatel back in September 2015 

It seems that we are still stuck in the same rut of how we measure and report advertising expenditure. Just last week GroupM’s figures still focused on the same silos of offline vs online. We need to resolve this by recognising that content and platforms are intertwined, and by finding a new way of measuring investment. It’s not just investment, though. Investment decisions are based at least partly on audience. If we stick to the binary view, we will get a very warped view of the true audience for many media. And the consequences are really bad for advertisers (not just the media concerned) if we make investment decisions based on bad data.

We know that advertising investment in print has declined much more steeply than newspaper sales or readership. The whole narrative about the decline of newspapers has been exacerbated by an exaggeration of print decline (because it’s “old”) and almost wilful neglect of the huge growth of online newsbrands by some measurers and commentators (because it’s new but not quite shiny enough?). To the extent that many people simply find the actual readership figures unbelievable.

And it is highly probable that somebody somewhere is deciding to pull their TV advertising in favour of ‘digital’ because the numbers are being looked at in silos.

Thanks to PAMCo, we now know that 25 million people read a national newsbrand every day, almost half in print and a bit over half on desktop or mobile. And we applaud our local newsbrand colleagues who have this week demonstrated the multi-platform nature of their part of the medium.

This is just part of the story. Accurate measurement of inputs (such as spend) is one thing, but outcomes are another. Getting this right is arguably more important for newsbrands than any other medium.

It is vital to be able to measure the impact of both digital and print, and how they work together. Yet in so much research, what we see is online being treated as a separate single medium, and if it is separated out at all, it is by format – display, video, search – rather than content.

We’ve been working with the IPA and with Peter Field on the IPA Databank for the last six years. The IPA have been incredibly helpful, and from 2012, all data collected allows us to separate out the amorphous mass of online, into its component parts such as online newsbrands.

We commissioned Peter Field to analyse the latest set of data for us and have the first published findings to include 2018 cases. In a complex and evolving media world, the results demonstrate that the old and the new working together can create magic – and drive significant business results for advertisers. Print is growing in effectiveness – definitely not out with the old! Digital newsbrands are being used to great effect for longer-term cases, bucking the trend for short-term, less effective, online campaigns. And most importantly the analysis proves the multiplier value of multi-platform newsbrands - definitely not binary and definitely not in decline.

We all need to look beneath the surface of gigantic online adspend claims and investigate in a more meaningful way what clients are spending their money on; but if there was a greater focus on the outcomes rather than dollars and pounds spent, there might be a greater willingness to define and segment “digital” more accurately and the money might be distributed more wisely.

So for newsbrands it’s in with the old and in with the new. We are leading the way for multi-platform measurement and effectiveness, moving away from a binary view of the world, and setting an example for the industry to follow.


Denise Turner is Insight Director, Newsworks

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11 Nov 2019 

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