The changing face of measurement for news brands

Last month The Telegraph announced that it will be pulling out of the ABC audit process in a bid to focus on its digital reach, relying instead on its own subscription data to quantify its offering. This news coincided with the Telegraph announcing that, for the first time ever, it has more digital subscribers than it does in print.

Fallings out between the auditor and publishers are nothing new, however given the scale of this desertion and the Telegraph’s position as one of the UK’s more conservative bastions of media publishing, the move has created something of a stir in media land.

Advertisers within the industry will undoubtedly still expect reliable data from a third party to verify how the Telegraph is performing, a role that the Telegraph will be assigning to PwC. Will this high-profile defection have further implications for the ABC, or open the doors for other publishers to appoint their own auditors? At a more fundamental level, are digital subscribers more important to publishers than their print readership?

This isn’t the first time a major newspaper has shifted away from focusing on print. The Independent took a similar approach in 2016 when it announced the release of its final print copy to make room for the digital-only publishing model. Space & Time’s Director of Trading, Amanda Macdonald, gave some thought to other possible factors driving news brands to make this change:

“With the proliferation of paywalls and alternative access points to media making the true figures harder to establish, a new cross-platform measuring tool is welcome for the publishing world.”

So, is there an alternative to ABC?

PAMCo is being seen by many as the new way to measure a news brand’s success. The audience measurement service was launched in April 2018 and provides individuals and publishers the ability to view reach and performance metrics of newspapers across various platforms such as print, mobile, tablet & desktop. Since its launch it has become a popular gateway for those in the media industry to make a comparison between who is winning and losing. There is instant access to data from PAMCo’s website and individuals can customise segmented infographics through a selection of tools to help delve deeper into this information.

News brands are becoming more and more reliant on their analytics data rather than circulation and readership figures

The purpose of analytics for news brands such as The Telegraph is to provide feedback on how the targeting of pocket-sized audiences is performing, using granular data. For news brands with a paywall such as The Telegraph, PAMCo helps to measure ad revenue through new subscribers, app downloads and analysis of which devices are being used to consume bitesize chunks of media.

The Telegraph reflected upon this in a recent statement:

“At The Telegraph Media Group, we are delighted with the progress that we have made to future proof our Journalism to thrive long term, delivering a transformation whilst maintaining profitability. The group is focused on a subscriber-first strategy underpinned by long term investment in The Telegraph’s digital transformation”. (Telegraph)

Clearly for The Telegraph the focus has shifted towards digital platforms, affirming the view that subscriptions are more important than circulation & readership. As the more traditional ABC audit does not return data based on digital activity, it seems its value to The Telegraph has become outdated when weighed against PAMCo’s more contemporary data offering.

From the numbers outlined below, it’s clear to see print reach is falling behind when compared to other platforms.

This leads a more fundamental question of whether journalism as we know it is dying out

The answer is no. We’re a long way from the point at which professional journalism or the brands that have a heritage of delivering it stop having value. But as the method of delivery changes to suit the new technologies, circulation and readership are dying measures of success.

Amanda helps us conclude here: “as an agency using traditional media alongside all forms of digital, we feel that the Daily Telegraph’s move to PAMCo is a step in the right direction – however we need all the publishing groups to be moving in that same direction before we can adopt this as the new currency. In the meantime, it will certainly enable us to see a truer picture of their audience.”