Morgan hits back at Hartigan comments over readership survey

Roy Morgan Research’s chairman Gary Morgan has accused John Hartigan of libelling him after the News Ltd boss today accused RMR of sabotaging efforts to set up an alternative readership measurement system.  

The row kicked off last week when Fairfax Media pulled out of the readership tender process being led by industry body The Newspaper Works, and instead opted to remain with Roy Morgan’s existing service.

In today’s The Australian, a News Ltd-owned newspaper, Hartigan attacked Morgan. He said:

“To my mind it comes down to one thing, and that’s the sheer arrogance and indeed the intransigence of the Roy Morgan organisation. Largely its principal in Gary Morgan. Anyone who’s had any dealings with that gentleman would understand what I mean.”

And he suggested: “It’s apparent they set out to . . . destroy the tender process by wedging a couple of the companies involved in it.”

Hartigan also went on to speculate on why Fairfax had pulled out of the tender process:

“There’s no question they’ve been given something that induced them… They were obviously offered something in return for getting them over the line, given that people like (Fairfax’s Financial Review Group chief executive) Michael Gill have been criticising the (Roy Morgan) methodology year in, year out.”

In response, Morgan told Mumbrella: “It’s outrageous to say that that I would bribe a Fairfax – its libelous and it’s wrong.” And on why it would not participate in the tender process, Morgan said “we’re not going to tender for our own survey”.

He added that contrary to continued criticism that it has refused to evolve its readership methodology and process, last week it revealed several new developments it has been working on.

This includes Newspaper Topic Involvement data, which is a new suite of metrics measuring the extent of readers’ involvement in 22 different newspaper topics. These include whether readers “especially choose to read a topic”, “are interested and read when have time” and “only read if something grabs attention”.

Another initiative is the Web Scheduler, which it released in September. It allows websites to be scheduled with other media, such as papers, magazines, TV and cinema.

Thirdly, it is developing what it calls Computer Assisted Personal Interview technology – a move towards an integrated data collection platform comprising of face-to-face, online, mobile, and telephone data collection methods.

However, there have so far been no moves by Roy Morgan towards measuring sectional readership, so agencies can know the readership of different parts of the newspaper.

Morgan said it would be unlikely he would look to take legal action over Hartigan’s comments given News Ltds “deep pockets”, but he said he would like to have a meeting with News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch and Hartigan to clear up the issue.

Meanwhile, the three organisations currently on The Newspaper Works’ readership tender shortlist are GfK:Mediamark Research & Intelligence, Ipsos MediaCT and TNS Australia. The publishers involved in the process are News Ltd, West Australian Newspapers and APN News and Media.

Industry body, Magazine Publishers of Australia has also pulled out of the tender process.


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