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Where is Media Auditing Heading?

17 Jun 2010

Gordon Towell, CEO of the Audit Bureaux of Australia (ABA), shares his views on Media Auditing in 2012:-


"Like most people in the media industry, I have been reflecting on the hype, hysteria and realities of the Apple iPad. How much of a game changer is the device and what will be the impact on publishers both in Australia and overseas?

What is clear is that we are witnessing a revolution in the way all media, including magazine and newspaper content, can and will be delivered to consumers in the future. Much has already been written about both the difficulties and opportunities to monetise the delivery of content and advertising through eReaders and web sites, but equally as important will be how to measure and audit the consumption of this content accurately.

Measuring the consumption and effectiveness of content delivered through an iPad will add pressure on existing media metrics such as circulation, readership, ratings and outdoor. Publishers who invest in this technology and create innovative products together with compelling subscription models, face the challenge of how to "count" these new metrics in a way that has credibility in the eyes of the media buyers and advertisers? How indeed can our industry measure these new metrics in a comparable and accountable method to show a complete and robust picture of their audience within a masthead context?

There is a groundswell of debate over these issues around the world. As recently as this week, I attended a teleconference with ABC's from around the world where this was discussed in some detail in light of the critical importance to the media industry globally. Such is the importance that we agreed to make the topic of digital content a key agenda item at the forthcoming IFABC (International Federation of Audit Bureaux) conference in Seoul later this year.

That is troubling to me is the variance both of speed and approach around the world from country to country and publisher to publisher. This technology is truly a global opportunity and there will be few barriers to entry for overseas publishers wishing to deliver content anywhere in the world. No supply chain issues, no need for local printing presses, and/or local distribution contracts.

For content that has truly a global reach and fewer local considerations such as automotive and celebrity magazines, the opportunities for publishers who seize the initiative will be vast. It is clear from the IFABC feedback that some publishers and countries have already invested heavily in reshaping their newspaper and magazine content to best suit the new hardware. In the USA, new metrics and audit processes have already been established and iPad/eReader applications developed by some publishers.

Of course this version of iPad is not the end of content delivered on printed paper. Newspapers and magazines in print will continue to be popular for the foreseeable future. However, eReaders will develop rapidly over the coming months and become lighter, thinner, more feature rich, and cheaper. There will be a tsunami of applications and publishers entering the market with hybrid concoctions of words, photos, video and interactivity. Our challenge at the ABC and CAB will be to work with all sectors of the industry including publishers, advertisers, media buyers, agencies and other industry bodies including the IAB, MFA and AANA, to ensure that Australia is at the forefront of this revolution. We will all have to work harder and faster to ensure this happens and that our local publishing industry is not seriously impacted by the competition overseas.

Of critical importance to our members will be to establish an agreed standard around metrics, audit process and rules governing what can or can't be counted and under what circumstances. Using print metrics as an example, there are well-established metrics on what constitutes Average Net Paid Sales - the key measure for all Newspaper and Magazine paid circulation in Australia. Since the launch of Digital Editions here, (digital versions of Newspapers that are virtually identical in form and content to the print editions), there has been considerable debate amongst publishers and agencies on how best to count and include in the ABC and CAB data. Imagine how more complex this debate will become in the future if USA and UK publishers are allowed to include digital versions of their publications, (including eReader apps), in their ANPS figures for all local and global subscriptions, but not here in Australia? It will only be a matter of time before the call to harmonise the relevant metrics is made.

Without doubt, 2012 will be the year that redefines the publishing industry both here and around the world."


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