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Less than half of Australia’s major media agencies subscribe after one year of EMMA

emmaNew readership survey Enhanced Media Metrics Australia has not been taken up by the majority of Australia’s major media agencies, research by Mumbrella suggests.

A poll by Mumbrella has suggested that just seven of the 20 major agencies in Australia are paying to subscribe to the metric, with Starcom and Match Media the only two to confirm their subscriptions.

Both News Corp’s agency UM and Fairfax’s agency Carat declined to talk about the metric, which is now one year old. However, Mumbrella understands holding groups IPG Mediabrands, which houses UM and Initiative, and Dentsu Aegis, which own Carat, Mitchell & Partners and Vizeum, are utilising the data.

Launched last August, the major publishers have spent millions of dollars to develop EMMA hoping it would usurp incumbent Roy Morgan Research as the readership currency in Australia. On Monday a Mumbrella analysis showed the data was claiming growing readerships for several metro print publications despite double-digit declines in circulation.

Mark Coad, CEO of PHD which does not subscribe to EMMA, told Mumbrella: “We don’t have an appetite to spend more on an already huge media research bill, unless we absolutely confirm the incremental benefit supports the incremental expense of doing so.

“That’s not to say we’ll never get to that point but we’re not there now.”

Coad’s sentiment was shared by a number of other agency CEOs, who declined to be named, but questioned the cost and reliability of EMMA’s data, particularly after the first year-on-year data showed increases in print readerships on many titles and readers per copy of a number of newspaper and magazine titles, in the face of declining print circulation.

“I think that the recent readership data release confirmed what many in the industry had feared; that ownership of the data measurement would result in unrealistically inflated/favourable readership data,” said one agency CEO.

“It is difficult not to be sceptical in the extreme. I think this scepticism is unfortunately validated and reinforced by the blatant factual distortions emanating from News Corp editorially. It’s a shame as I think the system, as it was intended, was a big step forward.

“I’m not sure how they can now build trust in EMMA as a credible data source. In gaming the system, they’ve screwed the system. Short-sighted and massively self defeating.”

One trading director claimed: “Ipsos had been going into agencies and saying it’s this much money or nothing and playing hard ball. Well the agencies will pay nothing if that’s the offer. The bottom line they haven’t proved their case.”

News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media, APN News & Media and West Australian Newspapers had said they would only use the EMMA data for trading after paying to set up the metric. However, Mumbrella understands that all Australian media agency groups still use the long established Roy Morgan Research for this as it is integrated into existing systems for planning across other media.

“Roy Morgan has not been displaced as the currency,” said another one media agency boss. “The publishers are obliged to give any proposal using EMMA data, the agency then responds saying ‘that’s great  – but can you show us this in Roy Morgan because we use Morgan’ and the media owners have to go ‘okay, well here you go’.”

The price point of the product, which has been heavily discounted according to most sources spoken to by Mumbrella, is causing concern amongst agencies who fear it may always need to be funded by the publishers.

“They are not really ‘discounting’ any more, but they have certainly re-evaluated their rate card,” said another media agency CEO, referencing the substantial discounts offered by IPSOS, who is running the survey, last year following its launch.

However, another trading director said the discounts being offered were between 40-60 per cent of the original rate card, adding the problem was that print was becoming increasingly “peripheral”.“If they were selling a new planning product for TV or online, it would be a different thing. But the reality is they are selling something for print and that is now a peripheral media,” he said.

“All I can say is the price they came in with originally and the price they are talking now are a fraction of what they thought they were going to get,” said another media agency boss. “The only way the survey will survive into future is if the publishers continue to fund it.”

Both The Readership Works which runs the readership survey on behalf of publishers and IPSOS which conducts the research for the monthly survey declined multiple interview requests to discuss the issues.

In a general statement on its first anniversary this week Mal Dale, GM of The Readership Works, said the survey had been built in consultation with media industry body the Media Federation of Australia. He said: “We will continue to collaborate with the industry as part of our commitment to continuous innovation. We have been impressed by the ongoing and valuable contribution from the MFA and a number of individual agencies in facilitating further enhancements to the survey, which we plan to make public in the near future.

“We are extremely pleased with the market reaction to EMMA and continue to work closely with the industry to ensure that EMMA meets and exceeds market needs.”

Ipsos MediaCT managing director Simon Wake said: “Industry transition is well under way and we have been impressed by the ongoing and valuable contribution from our clients in both proposing and facilitating further enhancements to the survey.”

Whilst The Readership Works sent out media releases heralding IPG Mediabrands and Match Media signing on for the currency shortly after its launch, it declined to provide an updated list of subscribers when asked this week, citing confidentiality.

After Mumbrella contacted all 20 major media agencies only Match and Starcom Mediavest confirmed they were now paying for subscriptions.

Match Media’s John Preston told Mumbrella:  “One of our key values is ‘Invest in Knowledge’. Add to that  our current client mix it was important for us to continue subscribing to Morgan and EMMA to offer the insights that suit our clients’ individual needs.”

Starcom Mediavest CEO Chris Nolan said: “We think the methodology is strong, and the data plugs into our systems, allowing us to better understand reach across TV, print and online.”

When invited to comment on whether its agencies had purchased subscriptions IPG Mediabrands said it did not want to comment, while Dentsu Aegis said the research it subscribes to is commercial in confidence.

Nic Christensen 

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