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Letter to the Editor - The Australian, RE: Simon Canning’s article: “What are you looking at, folks?”

Chris Mitchell — Editor in Chief
Michael Stutchbury — Editor
The Australian
GPO Box 4245
Sydney NSW 2001
December 8, 2005

Dear Sirs,

RE: Simon Canning’s article: “What are you looking at, folks?”

We read with interest Simon Canning’s article “What are you looking at, folks?” in today’s Media and Marketing Section of The Australian, December 8 2005. It is not before time that questions of both the sophistication and accuracy of audience measures are aired publicly. Roy Morgan Research has been saying exactly this, and for some time.

You need only look at the following papers Roy Morgan Research has published recently on the new approaches we need to bring to readership analysis to begin to understand this: “ Readers-per-copy: beyond the phoney figure debate to understanding reader choice and how to drive it your way ”, “ Are you going by the numbers? IF YES: Are they the right numbers? ” and “ It’s Time? Sectional Readership Data for Newspapers ”.

Whilst we commend Simon Canning for bringing up some very pertinent issues, his article would have been even more valuable to your readers had it included some of Roy Morgan Research’s recent findings. Simon Canning notes it is unlikely in the extreme that only 2.5 million Australians watched the Melbourne Cup according to the Seven Network’s figures. Roy Morgan survey data estimates a live television audience of over 10 million. Similarly the suggestion that only 3.4 million Australians watched Australia ’s “nail-biting” defeat of Uruguay to qualify for the soccer World Cup, underestimates that audience by 5 million people with a Roy Morgan survey data showing a nation-wide audience of just 8.5 million.

 

Melbourne Cup 2005

World Cup Qualifier 2nd Leg

Official Audience Rating figures

2,500,000

3,400,000

Roy Morgan Research figures

10,268,000

8,482,000

“Missed audience”

7,768,000

5,082,000

Harold Mitchell may well question media audience figures that show people exposed to 44 hours of media in a day; so do we. Roy Morgan Research measures ‘Time Spent on each Media’ and estimates just over 50 hours a week is spent on all media:

 

12 Months to September 2005

 

Hours

% of Total Media Time

TV

21hrs 50mins

43.5

Radio

15hr 41mins

31.2

Newspapers

3hrs 27mins

6.9

Magazines

1hr 52mins

3.7

Internet

7hrs 24mins

14.7

Total

50hrs 14min

100

The article mentions the recent IPSOS Readership Survey of “high-end” readers of newspapers and magazines. The IPSOS survey follows the release of the Roy Morgan “ Top 1% ” Readership Survey in Australia . We will soon release the “Top 1%” Readership Survey for the US , the UK , New Zealand and Indonesia.

We question the accuracy of IPSOS’ numbers; common sense tells you that some readership estimates are inflated — such as the readership of the Weekend Financial Review; while others are too low — such as the readership of Good Weekend. The key to any media currency is “relativities”.

Simon Canning notes that the “ the difference between circulation and readership has long been debated ”. It is only debated by people who continue to keep their “head in the sand” and refuse to acknowledge that increasingly newspapers and magazines are engaging in strategies that drive circulation with little or no effect on readership. Just last weekend the Sunday Herald Sun gave away thousands of free DVD’s to boost circulation. In an interview with The Guardian, the Head of News Corporation’s, Rupert Murdoch, acknowledges promotions such as these have little effect on readership. Our (still unpublished) letter of November 18 covers this issue — why not publish it?

At Roy Morgan Research we will continue to lead the market in devising new, more accurate, more reliable and more targeted audience measures. It is heartening to see The Australian has begun to report on the debate.

Yours sincerely,

       

Gary Morgan                                           Michele Levine

Executive Chairman                                     Chief Executive
Roy Morgan Research                                  Roy Morgan Research
Tel: 03 9224 5214                                      03 9224 5215

cc: Simon Canning