AdNews editor-in chief Paul McIntyre responds to SMI

By Paul McIntyre | 14 August 2012
AdNews editor-in-chief Paul McIntyre.

Last week, AdNews published a story titled 'Nine not happy, dumps SMI over gap in figures', which discussed Nine pulling support from the Standard Media Index (SMI).

SMI's global chief executive, Sue Fennessy, then hit out at the AdNews story. Here is what AdNews editor-in-chief Paul McIntyre had to say in response.

Paul McIntyre:

As Sue Fennessy knows, I’ve been a big fan of the Standard Media Index from well before it officially launched. Well before. I still am.

But it doesn’t mean I, nor AdNews, shouldn’t cover what key industry players are saying about the service – with or without their own commercial agendas in play.

The difficulty with last week’s story was timing – key people at Nine Entertainment Co. were in London and the news cycle means we had to get the story out. It meant getting to the bottom of it all was hampered a little. A follow-up was already in the wings before Sue Fennessy’s welcome response.

But it should be noted that SMI’s publisher, Jane Schulze, was well briefed on the story that was coming. SMI had the chance to respond, on the record, in greater depth than the single-paragraph response AdNews got. But as is often the way, it is only after publishing that we get the perspective we’re looking for.

Sue Fennessy makes a good point about there being other illuminating stories to be had for journalists. I agree, although this story stands up in its own right. So while we’re on that soapbox, let me say SMI is a great source for "illuminating stories". But SMI withholds much of it. And when I, for example, do find some of SMI’s data falling off the back of a truck and it is published, SMI is the first to come crunching down on AdNews for using it. You can’t have it both ways, Sue.

Fennessy also says the AdNews story last week was “cheap”, an “attack” on her business and “sensationalist”. Well, the story quoted many media executives struggling with the SMI figures and others praising the service – Seven West Media’s chief digital and sales officer, Kurt Burnette, for example, was quoted giving parts of SMI’s service a big wrap.

The key point in all this is not how robust SMI’s data is, because the methodology stacks up. The issue is that many media companies say their own figures don’t reconcile monthly with SMI’s, mainly because of other revenue sources like direct sales which are not covered in SMI’s pool.

The trouble with that is this partial market view is taken as a “total view” for a given month and negotiating positions are then based around SMI’s feed.

As Fennessy says, SMI is indeed challenging certain parts of the market. Most media owners will say SMI has handed new, additional leverage in negotiations to media agencies and advertisers every month.

While all the official talk around SMI is about adding value and insights, most of the lament from media owners is that media agencies jump on those media operators that appear to be not as strong in the previous four weeks to simply hammer down price and exploit better deals.

SMI has fast become a data drug for the industry and that stuff tends to have an upside and a downside. It is what we’re seeing now. Media agencies are delirious about filling a near real-time information vacuum that has existed for decades. Media owners are struggling to counter.

What exactly is behind Nine’s exit from SMI is still the subject of much conjecture. Rivals says Nine’s thrown a tantrum because its numbers don’t look so good. Nine is certainly brewing up an alternative reporting series to SMI.

But a final note to Fennessy’s claims of sensationalism and AdNews leading an attack on the SMI’s business. She might well talk to her media owner subscribers about their overt reluctance to confirm to us that they will resign to the SMI service when their contracts are up. That only propagates questions in the mind of a journalist. So it was not so much AdNews leading the attack but the unwillingness of some of SMI’s subscribers to confirm their longer-term intent.

There is no question media agencies love SMI. As does the investment community. It’s the media owners who are struggling, in the main. It’s OK to have their voice heard now and again in AdNews. Contrary to Fennessy's “sensationalist” barb, many in the industry will say AdNews is hardly that when compared to some of our more tabloid-leaning trade rivals.

We want productive industry debate with depth in AdNews, which is why Sue Fennessy’s opinion piece should be read by all.

There is always two sides to a story. Fennessy has made hers. I’ve made mine. Let’s see where it heads.

How’s New York and the US tracking, Sue? Well, I genuinely hope.

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