At the aptly named Demystify: Newspaper Research Forum on Tuesday night at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, an audience of senior print media owners, agents, marketers and researchers gathered to face the ‘crisis’ of newspaper media research that threatens an already uncertain print platform.
Hoosain Karjieker, PMSA’s recently appointed CEO acknowledged that the association – which represents over 700 magazine and newspaper titles in the country – needs to jack up its marketing efforts. In particular, it needs to reassess the sustainability of its South African Advertising Research Foundation funding model so that the All Media and Products Survey (AMPS) for the newspaper industry survives and thrives.
PMSA’s responsibility to the future of AMPS is contained in one of its chief objectives: “To co-ordinate the exchange of information affecting the print media industry and the collation of data applicable thereto.”
If PMSA needs to get its act together, so seemingly, does SAARF. It was announced that the levy collection agency which has existed for many years will cease to operate next year. SAARF currently relies on a pre-determined amount from PMSA, and there are claims that it is insufficient to meet their needs.
“We have pushed the funding issue to the top of our agenda. But this issue in no way affects our commitment to SAARF and AMPS – We maintain the survey is a world-class product…and we need to seek a solution that will seek only to enhance the effectiveness of AMPS,” said Karjieker.
Virginia Hollis, one of the speakers at the forum, echoed Karjieker’s sentiments about the sophistication of AMPS and therefore the crucial place it has in the future of newspapers.
“The MediaShop uses AMPS on a daily basis to drill into data. And in fact we only utilise 50% of what’s there. When we get a brief about interrogating the market, we turn to AMPS. If we don’t have AMPS, then what do we have?” Hollis said that AMPS is one of the best media currencies in the world. “And as the industry complains about junior planners and brand managers, AMPS’ role has never been greater.”
But Hollis explained that SAARF is “everybody’s responsibility” and that “big players have let SAARF slide”.
The talk of the actual viability of the AMPS questionnaire is also an issue for SAARF. “Is AMPS a suitable tool in these changing times? There is a lot of pressure on print media owners to be new and innovative. It is no good just doing research. The outcome of the research has to lead to revenue opportunities,” said Trevor Ormerod, AVUSA’s executive commercial director.
Barbara Cooke, research stalwart, asserted: “It is no secret this suite of surveys does no longer serve its clients.” She urged SAARF to look at focusing AMPS.
“AMPS is more credible and useful for marketers and advertisers than is independent research conducted by media houses… often the issue with media owner research is bias, so we tend to ask if we are being properly informed,” Cooke said.
However, the speakers’ panel concurred that the media owner should take responsibility to deliver newspaper research to advertisers.
“Media owners need to go beyond simple descriptions of markets…The research that we need to give advertisers should have gravitas, be objective and not just an extension of the sales pitch,” said Cooke.
She cited examples of excellent research that complements AMPS: Caxton’s ROOTS; Avusa’s SABRE and PMSA’s Synergy Study (conducted early 80s). But she warns that the industry should do whatever it could to deliver accessible and meaningful data to clients.
But if it’s the marketers’ money, why are they not taking ownership of AMPS? Sarel du Plessis, newly appointed CEO of Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), explained that MASA too needs to have its house in order. “The issue is we have so many marketing associations in South Africa – seven to be precise. But MASA is working on greater consolidation – this will go a long way in sorting out our research priorities,” he said.
Essentially, marketers, researchers, media owners and media bodies such as PMSA need to secure the future of newspapers through robust and sustainable research. Moreover, research should be adaptable and relevant to the changing times. The way we consume media is different. The newspaper industry, as stated by panelists and believed by the audience, will likely survive. But whether it thrives in the new era is another question all together.
The Demystify: Newspaper Research Forum was organised by Wag the Dog Publishers in collaboration with Avusa and Print Media South Africa (PMSA). The panelists were Gordon Muller, Barbara Cooke, Virginia Hollis, Clive Corder, and Sarel du Plessis.