The publishing industry has now embraced the need to start measuring people’s reading behaviour as communication gestalt.
The media research industry in South Africa is sailing in uncharted waters. The good ship AMPS has lost its main mast and the industry lies becalmed in the Media Doldrums waiting for the Establishment Survey (ES) to sail into sight in April 2017, carrying the latest navigational charts so that we can all resume our journey into the unknown.
Understandably for many passengers, emotions are running high and people are looking for a captain to keelhaul, but the truth is that we, the media sailors, are to blame for the impasse by refusing to change tack even though the prevailing winds of media consumption had dramatically shifted.
People simply don’t consume media the way they have done in the past. As a newspaper reader, with a specific news content affinity, it is not the fact that the source of my content is printed or delivered via a mobile device that is significant, it is the content itself. Technology is merely a delivery mechanism facilitating my reading; it isn’t a separate medium.
Performance guru Dr. James Harrington once observed, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t improve it.”
Measure it right
When it comes to newspapers (and magazines for that matter), the good news for 2017 is that the publishing industry has embraced the need to start measuring people’s reading behaviour as communication gestalt. If we measure it right we can start to get the creative messaging right. And if we get the messaging right we’ll get the advertising ROI right.
In the Establishment Survey (ES), the obsolete AMPS definition of newspaper readership, which was essentially a measurement of ‘ink on fingers’, has been thrown overboard to create space for a platform agnostic measure of reading as a behaviour. In ES reading means that … you have personally read or paged through a newspaper or newspaper article irrespective of whether it was a paper copy, or read online on a computer, mobile device or tablet.
The problem is that AMPS has been measuring consumer exposure to newsprint not consumer exposure to published content. So, AMPS 2015 reports a 5% decline in the Citizen “readership” but online readership of the Citizen has increased 31% over the same period. The Times drops 25% in AMPS readership but unique browsers increase by 17%. Business Day AMPs readership would appear to be stagnant but reading of published online BDFM content has increased 49%.
A basket of Independent Media titles shows declines in AMPS readership but reading of IOL is up 66%.
Published word as powerful as ever
From a holistic perspective, there are more people reading than ever before and the published word is as powerful as ever.
This platform agnostic approach will be carried through into the new Publisher Research Council reading currency PAMS (Publisher Audience Measurement Survey) which is due for release in September 2017.
In addition to changing the reading behaviour metric, the PRC has also recognised the need to generate a regular stream of agile data regarding the habits of readers. After scrutinising global best practices for measuring reading in a digital era, the PRC has approved a methodology for the PAMS currency, which will utilise a hybrid of traditional face to face interviews in conjunction with developing and maintaining an online reader panel.
In the past, AMPS measured what newspaper readers did yesterday in order to explain what they do today. In 2017 PAMS will begin the process of continuously measuring what readers are doing today, in order to accurately predict what they will do tomorrow.
The course has been charted and the sails are set. In 2017 newspapers and publishers will finally embark on a new journey in the Brave New Media World.