Media research in 2014

By Rob Smuts

As the media industry transforms, so should the media research advertisers depend on to make decisions. It used to be that each release of the venerable All Media and Products Survey (Amps) signalled the most important event in media research in South Africa.

In fact, without the traditional Amps media research, can we possibly make any advertising placement decisions that are any good? At this time, probably not. But what does the future hold for media research?

At a February 2014 conference in London about major new trends in media research hosted by inTV, a group of the world’s top television providers including BBC World News, CNBC, TV5Monde, Sky News and National Geographic Channel, presenters highlighted major shifts required for relevant media research.

In the official white paper released after the event, inTV states: “Audience measurement used to be about counting eyeballs in the world’s living rooms. But with consumers now lapping up content across multiple screens, the challenge of demonstrating who’s watching what and what those connections are
worth to advertisers, is significantly more complex.

“Just as media owners have diversified to provide cross-platform viewing opportunities and as individuals and brands have become media owners in their own right, providers of media research are breaking new ground in measuring what really matters to advertisers and media agencies.” (Download the document at

As interesting as the information presented at this conference, is the fact that these TV channels have banded together collectively to present advertising-relevant media research information to their advertising partners: “The channels within the inTV group are at the forefront of high-quality video content delivery. We not only need to keep pace with these changes, but share that knowledge with our agency and client partners,” explains Sonia Marguin, Research Director at Euronews.

Is this also a trend worth watching? (Media owners coming together collectively to provide quality media research.) I reckon South Africa can do with a similar approach; a collective effort by media owners to provide credible industry trends that we can act upon.

But what about good old traditional media research itself? South Africa has always been uniquely positioned with Amps, an independent, non-profit media research study collectively funded by a marketing/media industry levy. In other parts of the world media research is often conducted by a for-profit commercial enterprise that on-sells its research to advertisers and agencies.

For instance, in Australia Roy Morgan Research has long been the leading magazine and newspaper readership research company. It also provides a variety of other media research products, such as its media engagement metrics study. Lately it introduced its innovative “360 degree map of the consumer,” containing “usage trends, frequency and duration, commitment and sentiment across print, TV, radio, web and out of home to produce a total suite of engagement metrics used by buyers and planners, agencies, distributors, publishers, producers and marketers.”

In the UK, the long-established National Readership Survey (NRS) provides traditional media research for use by print advertisers. Very similar to Amps in research methodology, the NRS is conducted by means of computerised research interviews conducted throughout the year.

Since the end of 2012, this survey also provides information on combined print and online audiences.

The new cross-platform trends in traditional media research means a more complete profile of media habits. We all use media more interactively and across a higher variety of screens during our media day. Tracking these habits are valuable for optimised, quality advertising reach.

Here at home I believe this is an area in which, collectively, media owners can play a positive role in moving media research forward.