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.

Monday, May 22, 2006

PRO's and the news - get some help

A simple question - what external information is needed by communications people?

Answer – not so simple….

Would an effective, rapidly updated web monitoring system provide the solution? Probably not, if the volumes are at all large, particularly if the brief is to collect data on the competitors and markets as well. Most see the need to receive a resumé of key facts presented in an accessible (ideally graphical) manner, into which the receiver can drill, eventually arriving at the media source.

However, there is news - we seem to be entering the age of semi-intelligent automated searching (well possibly)

Each morning you will open your desktop, be greeted by a review of quantitative data relating to your organisation and a designated selection of contemporaries. This continuously updating review of media output will be directed to collect only what you tell it to, plus it will learn about you, your interests and job patterns, presenting you with an increasingly intelligent selection of relevant data.

Could be a far-flung wonder….?

Possibly, but a series of developments have recently been launched which will help with this process and shows the way the developers are thinking.

The new Trends component introduced to Google (www.google.com/trends) could provide one of sizable step on the way to fulfilling this need, particularly if it could be taken with a RSS feed and combined into something a bit like the new Factive2 module.

The Google solution warrants investigation – all you do is put in a company name and a few competitors and see a graph over time illustration of searches on the name, plus a comparison with news featuring them. It also looks for ‘spikes’ in the news and provides links to news items relevant. While it is only a test module and a bit clunky, it is a genuine step in a new direction and certainly worth a look.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The current stand-off between the CIPR and the NLA raises interesting questions for the PR industry. In many ways the paradox is that the majority of national newspaper output is available free online. If this is the case then why is the industry so excited about the idea of tightening NLA controls and the advent of eClips?

A possible explanation is the industry's mistrust of online content compared to that printed. In a world where PR is trying to manage and quantify something as intangible as reputation, it is reassuring to have in your hand something as tangible as a press cutting.

Possibly we will look back at the current spat with the NLA as nothing more than a red herring - a last gasp attempt by the newspaper industry to grab as much cash from its printed sales against a massive decline in circulation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am shocked to hear that media are suggesting that the UK economy is being propped up by the additional sales associated with upcoming football World Cup. I am sure economic fortunes run deeper than how many plasma screens and premium rate TV ads are sold.

The obvious concern is that the media build expectations on the basis of an eclectic example or a vague assumption, whilst ignoring far broader and influential factors like the plunge in the dollar or rising personal debt.

Monday, May 15, 2006

I have been thinking about the expression 'analysis paralysis' and how useful research really is. How about this for a quote:
"Research ! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never achieve any results of the slightest value" -- Benjamin Jowett (1817-93), British theologian.

Possibly a bit jaundice but relevant? Taking a pragmatic approach and after talking to people in the industry it is often very clear that the flip side - gut feeling, still gets a good look in.

For the record, Wikipedia defines it as: "Analysis paralysis is an informal phrase applied to when the opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits. Analysis paralysis applies to any situation where analysis may be applied to help make a decision and may be a dysfunctional element of organizational behavior. Often phrased as paralysis by analysis, in contrast to extinction by instinct."

'Extinction by instinct: that's one to note!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Suppose I must start somewhere; although I am fairly sure this not the first blog focusing on media evaluation and its application to the world of PR - also pretty it wont be the last. Features likely to be covered are current reasoning on the discipline, why it is so often missued and why the internet is going to make it even harder to do properly.