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Evaluating the media: Measuring Cyberspace

PR geekiness - the tools & techniques to gain insights from PR exposure

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Measuring Cyberspace

With the majority of the UK's National press available free online as well as organisations like the BBC making available large portions of their currant affairs programming via its web site, are we entering the ‘cybermedia’ age?

According to the Carnegie Organisation 44% of 18-34 year olds get their news from online sources compared to 19% via the newspaper. So currently the younger generation are twice as likely to look to the Internet for its news exposure rather than the traditional press. And how will the age demographic change this? Most know the newspaper circulation is falling fast - they still get the readers, but they are accessing their information online.

What does this mean for those trying to analyse the media? The trend seems to point towards the decreasing importance of traditional printed press and the apparent redundancy of one of the key metrics used by analysts-accurate readership figures.

In the past circulation and readership figures have proved to be one of the cornerstones of PR measurement. Readership data for web sites is nowhere near as accurate as the independently audited figures for the printed press. For example, the BBC's website is accessed daily by X. million people; if you get referred to on one of the pages is it justifiable to claim all of those millions of visitors saw you amongst the millions of pages which make up the site?

Obviously not, so a different style of research is needed for online exposure. Online interest areas are made up of communities of visitors each selecting their own key influencers, creating their own sphere of impact. The measurement of these communities can be undertaken by considering the presence of messages and tone. What is not so easy to do is establishing the impact, in terms of readership. In cyberspace the challenge will be to find who are the key influences and opinion formers.

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