While the report naturally describes the US market, there is plenty here to interest UK media watchers: the apparent stabilisation of those newspapers left standing, declines at network television news, and hints of an economically sustainable future, with evidence of successful paywalling and the promise of hyper-targeted display advertising (no, really).
Given Cision’s continued work toward the identification and qualification of influence, it was particularly interesting to see the Pew report claim that “[i]f anything, the metrics of online news have become more confused, not less”. It continues,
There is no consensus on what is the most useful measure of online traffic. Different rating agencies do not even agree on how to define a “unique visitor.” Does that denote different people or does the same person visiting a site from different computers get counted more than once? The numbers from one top rating agency, comScore, are in some cases double and even triple those of another, Nielsen. More audience research data exist about each user than ever before. Yet in addition to confusion about what it means, it is almost impossible get a full sense of consumer behavior — across sites, platforms, and devices. That leaves potential advertisers at a loss about how to connect the dots.
As the Pew report flags up, four advertising bodies have come together to form the Making Measurement Make Sense initiative, aimed at developing digital metrics and cross-platform measurement solutions to improve marketing practices. Of course, such initiatives have come and gone before – but make no mistake, this particular coalition is heavyweight, with the resources, motivation and standing to drive through standards in digital measurement.
Here’s where I go a little off-piste: the following views are very much my own and do not reflect those of Cision in the UK or globally. It seems to me that this latest development is part of a consistent digital media trend of PR getting left in advertising’s dust, even as the two become increasingly hard to tell apart.
At one AMEC conference not so long ago, I heard one venerable PR measurement guru exclaim, in all seriousness, “I don’t know anything about advertising!” as if this were a badge of honour. I nearly fell off my seat. But the organisation’s persecution of this metric continues – its “Barcelona Principles” literally reject EAV as a measure of PR’s value (no problem with that), but there is clear danger of baby-with-bathwater defenestration.
About four years ago I wrote a column for CorpComms that argued that the only thing wrong with equivalent advertising values in PR measurement was the dollar sign – meaning that, as a measure, not of monetary return, but of activity – as a KPI – it’s can be as valid as anything else. (I’ve subsequently heard these exact words in the mouths of others, but the article’s not archived online, so you’re going to have to take my word for it.)
As the worlds of advertising and marketing blend into one in the digital space, one of the few consistent measures of activity across all media types – traditional, social, search – is the value advertisers are willing to attach to these channels. As such, EAV is not just potentially useful as a KPI, it’s potentially uniquely useful.
Hopefully the keynote presence of Richard Pinder, Chief Operating Officer for Publicis Worldwide, at this year’s European AMEC summit will keep the PR measurement pros open to ideas from their advertising brethren. And certainly PR measurement gurus wary of, or unfamiliar with, other marketing disciplines would be well advised to keep a close eye on Making Measurement Make Sense.