Nielsen gets licence to print’s money

The Nielsen Company has been signed up for another five years as the preferred provider of research services for the print media industry. But all is not as it once was: Derek Lindsay, chairman of the snappily titled Print Media Industry Research Review Group (PMIRRG) and managing director at DraftFCB media calls the new deal a complete relaunch of the consumer insight and print readership research service in New Zealand and he believes the host of new innovations soon to be on offer will prove to be a bit of a fillip for New Zealand’s publishers.

Nielsen was chosen after an extremely thorough review and fairly intense tendering process that looked for responses around measuring print readership, providing a comprehensive consumer insights survey and introducing a media engagement study. 11 companies from New Zealand and around the world formally expressed their interest, eight companies initially presented their credentials and four research agencies were formally invited by PMIRRG to pitch.

This decision marks the conclusion of a process that started back in 2007, when industry research was conducted by Mediaedge:CIA’s Barry Williamson and Professor Peter Danaher from Auckland University’s marketing department to find out what the industry thought of the current research model and where things should be heading.

Over the last two and a half years, Lindsay says the PMIRRG has funded an extensive review on international best practice in media research, innovation and the use of technology. And he says it found that a lot of what the New Zealand market was doing was as good as anywhere else in the world at the time. But things were starting to happen overseas that would soon need to be acknowledged here, hence the tender process, which also aimed to provide the flexibility to adapt to the coming wave of new, mostly mobile devices like iPads and smartphones that are affecting the media landscape.

“We took the view that we were looking for the best solution and there were a number of research agencies who have expertise in those areas, so it was an opportunity to involve the global agencies to see what they could offer and how they would operate in this market.”

Lindsay believes Nielsen’s new methodology and the intended transition away from face to face and towards completely online data capture by 2015 in order to get more representative samples should help address questions about the realness of readership and the accuracy of readership measurement (previously, readership was based on someone reading something for two minutes or more, and while this might seem simplistic, Lindsay says it’s the rule that’s used in almost every other major media market and “there’s no better way of doing it”).

Another area that has the print industry excited is the use of more qualitative measures to show how people get involved in certain titles. It wasn’t enough just to have readership numbers anymore. So, rather than saying x number of people read x magazine, Lindsay says the new media engagement tools will allow publishers to say, for example, its magazine has 200,000 readers but 30 percent really love to read it and 30 percent of those also like the advertising inside. This data might give sales teams who are struggling to convince young media buying whippersnappers that their media is worthwhile.

Of course, Nielsen was the incumbent, but Lindsay is at pains to point out the reappointment wasn’t because it was the easy choice.

“We wouldn’t have done this shit in our spare time just to stay where we are,” he explains, extremely clearly.

He says there’s been a huge investment of time and effort from all the stakeholders involved because everyone wanted to find the best option for the industry, so this isn’t just window dressing. And he doesn’t want to hear things like “I knew Nielsen would be appointed” or “that was bound to happen”.

“It’s going to be a completely new service,” he says. “We do see it as a restart in a sense; a relaunch.”

Lindsay admits the move to a more robust measurement system is partly a response to online competition, which regularly trumpets its ability to measure (although with a recent skirmish over auto-refreshing of websites in Australia, those measurement systems obviously weren’t quite as watertight as the industry was making out, at least not across the Tasman).

Not surprisingly, Lindsay wouldn’t comment on how much the contract is worth to Nielsen, but it’s a whopper. Even so, given the amount of money the print industry spends on research and the competitive nature of the pitch, it seems likely there was some pencil sharpening to get across the line. Still, even with a bit of pencil sharpening, it’s an important strategic deal for Nielsen, and even more so after it missed out on the recent readership measurement work in the Australian market.

Nielsen achieved preferred supplier status by proposing a total redesign of the existing research service which includes:

  1. A managed transition in 2011 from face-to-face in-home interviews using paper questionnaires to computer assisted face-to-face interviews and onto a fully online survey by 2015.
  2. Exciting new media and consumer insight tools, including an annual dynamic cross-media and publishing brand engagement study.
  3. The fusion of Statistics New Zealand’s Household Expenditure Monitor to the print readership database and a new panel based on an online audience measurement tool, also fused to the core readership.
  4. The survey itself will also be completely redesigned to include new questions covering consumer and media, lifestyle, life stage, activity and attitudes. This will provide publishers and media agencies with a refreshingly new comprehensive sales and planning tool.

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