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Media buyers reserve judgment on readership metric EMMA as Roy Morgan bosses question independence

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Senior media buyers are warning that a new readership metric bankrolled by Australia’s major publishers will struggle to get widespread takeup by agencies unless they get cut price access to the data.

Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA), has been underway for nearly four years as a project being run by industry body The Newspaper Works.

EMMA will offer readership statistics for Australia’s newspaper and magazine mastheads, in a move that seeks to challenge the existing industry readership metric provided by Roy Morgan Research. Some of Australia’s publishers – and News Corp in particular have been unhappy with Roy Morgan’s dominance of the readership metric since the 1970s.

Ahead of EMMA’s launch on Monday, Mumbrella has spoken to buyers from a number of Australia’s biggest media agencies who have cited a number of concerns about the new metric including: a  lack of detail on the pricing structure if they choose to subscribe to the service, questions about whether Emma can be used for channel planning and budgetary concerns about paying for two readership metrics.

Roy Morgan Research today held its own event to announce enhancements to its single source survey where senior staff raised questions about the independence of the Emma survey which is being produced for The Newspaper Works by research company Ipsos.

Danny Bass, who heads media buying for Australia’s biggest single media buying point, WPP’s Group M media agencies, hinted that the industry would view numbers which showed growing print numbers with some scepticism, and would resist any attempt to use the data to increase ratecards. He said: “Given the pressures that print publishers have been under for a number of years we are looking closely at the data and we will look closely at any changes to the pricing model,” said Bass. “However, they must be reflective of the overall media landscape.”

Bass’s comments come on the same day that the Audited Media Association reported double digit declines year on year in circulation for most of Australia’s newspapers and magazines.

In a signal that the company is trying to move the conversation away from print numbers to an overall masthead audience conversation, News Corp declined to comment on the AMA numbers today, saying it would wait until next week’s EMMA numbers are released.

John Alderton director of research at Aegis, which has participated in an agency trial of EMMA, said he too wanted more detail. “We don’t know what we think because we haven’t seen the full figures,” said Alderton.”The other thing is we don’t know how much it is going to cost.”

“To the best of my knowledge the commercial terms will not be discussed until after the launch and the first thing is we need to see the data, and find out if we are happy with it, and then secondly we have to figure out how are we going fund it and how much is it going to cost.”

Privately many media buyers have told Mumbrella that they would want a free trial of the survey for the first year or two in order to figure out how they might use it and how it compares with the rival Morgan survey.

“I suspect that they will give it away in the initial period in order to get agencies to use it,” said one senior media agency executive, who declined to be named, “if only because Morgan have done a few big long-term deals around town.”

Simon Wake, managing director of Ipsos Media CT, told Mumbrella that the firm had already begun negotiations with some agencies and said that remaining agencies would be contacted by next week. “We are having commercial terms discussions with agencies now and we have more booked next week,” said Wake.

He would not be drawn on the prices being asked. “What we would say to that is that we understand that this represents significant industry change so we want to minimise the disruption to agencies in terms of installing the systems and making transition as seamless as possible,” he said.

When asked to clarify what this meant Wake said: “Some of that is commercial-in-confidence, but what I will say is that we will have a very compelling offer for those agencies that sign on with us early.”

Ipsos appears to working hard to encourage media buyers to trial the new readership metric counter and in recent days major publishers such as News Corp Australia and Bauer Media have announced that emma would be the currency by which they set future rate cards from. However, media buyers say they have concerns around the fact that Emma will not allow agencies to do all their channel planning and only represents readership in print and online.

“There is a lot of hype around EMMA but the reality is we use Roy Morgan for channel planning purposes,” said one media agency buyer. “Morgan helps us decide what channels we use, how we use them and to get deep insight into product consumption and how it relates to purchasing.”

“What Ipsos have on offer at the moment is not that. It is a readership survey that has a bit of insight into other media and product, but with much a smaller sample compared with Morgan.”

This perspective is shared by media analyst Steve Allen, who also uses Morgan data for his media analysis.

“In the end readership survey is a small percentage of how we use (Morgan’s) data. Giving us a new readership survey is useless to us unless you’re going to replicate a single source survey with face-to-face interviewing we are not interested,” said Allen, said the head of Fusion Strategy.

Ipsos will also face stronger competition with the bosses of Roy Morgan Research, announcing that they would be move to a monthly data releases, greater detail in their data and attacking the independence of their rival newspaper industry-funded rival.

At an event this morning CEO Michele Levine, told a gathering of media agency staff that Roy Morgan would be updating its offering and criticising Emma by saying: “Some were even cheeky enough to think they can compete with us and measure themselves.”

Asked what she meant by this, she said: “There are so many issues. News Limited have tried many times to set up their own readership survey. There’s clearly an issue with independence.”

Morgan’s criticism of Emma was  rejected by The Readership Works the unit of The Newspaper Works charged with delivering the currency.

“EMMA is totally independent. Ipsos are a global company whose integrity relies on them providing research. We have had the input of the Media Federation of Australia, independent consultants and unlike other certain consultants we put ourselves under the scrutiny of an independent auditor,” said Mal Dale, general manager of The Readership Works.

And News Corp told Mumbrella: “The tender was called after Roy Morgan Research did not respond satisfactorily to countless requests, over many years, to explain discrepancies and errors in its data.

“EMMA delivers what publishers, advertisers and agencies have been wanting for years – greater accuracy, greater coverage, true sectional insight, a consolidated cross-platform view and, critically, transparency and authenticity.”

Media buyers have also questioned whether the new metric comes too late.

“In some ways the horse has already bolted and it doesn’t matter what metric they put in place in the eyes of clients, and clients that have supported print for many years, there has been a significant shift into other media particularly digital,” said one media agency executive, who declined to be named. “You have to wonder whether those dollars will ever go back to print no matter what new metric you put forward.”

The Readership Works’s Dale told Mumbrella: “The very purpose of us putting this metric together was to present a more accurate cross platform view of a masthead readership.

“It is truism to say that there is a shift in revenue and consumption between the printed and digital copies, what we are attempting to do is to ensure we are providing the best possible measurement of where the audiences are across those channels,” he said.

Other media buyers said their biggest concerns remained one of being unwilling to pay to use the new metric. “I simply don’t believe I can get the budget for two metrics”, said one trading director.

“The granularity of Emma is useful but there is no reason you would have two tools to do the same thing,” said another agency executive. “I don’t think agencies will do that, in my view.”

Managing director of independent media agency TMS Andrew Lamb, one of the few media buyers willing to discuss the issue said: “The question I keep being asked is are you going to buy both? It’s a really valid question and I can’t answer it at this stage,” said Lamb.

However, Dan Johns, commercial director at IPG Mediabrands, welcomed the new arrival saying: “EMMA brings much needed competition and depth to the readership metric”.

The launch is being backed with a marketing campaign created by The Hallway.

Nic Christensen and Tim Burrowes

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