Roy Morgan: EMMA killed BRW and newspapers are next

By Brendan Coyne | 28 October 2013
Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine.

As two media agencies sign up for the new EMMA readership metric, Roy Morgan boss Michele Levine has come out swinging.

Her rhetoric significantly ratchets up the mudslinging between the rival providers to the extent that EMMA could sound the death knell for newspapers, she reckons, and drag magazines down with them. While it may be dismissed by publishers as a simplistic argument, Levine says EMMA has already claimed its first victim: Fairfax's BRW.

Match Media last week signed up for EMMA from Ipsos, as did Mediabrands. The latter handles the News Corp account via UM and might be expected to do so. Mediabrands boss Henry Tajer said it was “the future” and that print remained a “critical” media. He rubbished any suggestion that Mediabrands would use the metric purely because it had the News Corp account. But it arguably represents a coup for the new provider that a non-aligned agency has taken it on.

However, neither agency has yet dispensed with incumbent Roy Morgan's services. That's because they still need the single source data that Roy Morgan provides.

“We've decided to run both tools concurrently,” Match boss John Preston told AdNews. “We have an arrangement with Roy Morgan until August and that gives us a good window to determine whether they can be complementary or whether one is better for our client mix and needs.”

UM boss Mat Baxter said Mediabrands was still using Roy Morgan for single source elements. He said that may change “as EMMA evolves”.

Ipsos has been engaging deeply with agencies since the new metric launched. It has touted “favourable terms” in a bid to gain market share and it is understood agencies have been intensively trained before being offered free use of the system for at least three months. By the end of November, some 500 agency staff will start being trained on the system, Ipsos boss Simon Wake said.

That proactive approach – train first sell later – is very different to what has gone before and may be paying off. Some agencies have said they have negotiated shorter contracts with Roy Morgan ahead of the new metric coming in so that they can buy the EMMA service should it meet their needs.

But Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said that was not the case and has ratcheted up the attack on the new provider.

“It's the opposite, we have more clients on long term contracts than ever before,” she claimed. “Whether it is with agencies or advertisers [those longer-term contracts are being signed] because we are partnering with them on data integration, not just doing a readership survey and publishing the numbers.”

Some agencies have also suggested that Roy Morgan will lose revenue if agencies defect to the Ipsos data, causing it to up the rate for its single source data as a clawback. One agency suggested that may lead to agencies and clients doing their own research if the cost became exorbitant.

Levine said that she could not “answer categorically” on rates and pointed out that advertisers were already doing their own research, but that it was Roy Morgan doing it as a white label.

Whether Emma could “evolve” as it has outlined into more detailed market data resource was possible, she said, but not easy. WPP had been trying to do that with its Target Group Index (TGI) tool for some time “but it is so superficial compared to what Australia has had for 20 years. It is more difficult than people think”.

Even if it did lose revenue from readership data, Levine said Roy Morgan “has moved on”. A rival metric would have been a threat “10 years ago, but today agencies are looking for cross-media and single source data and [tools that help with] the way that clients look at the world. So if after a while there is less revenue from publishing readership data we will go where there is a lack of relevant info, wherever the business lies”.

Although some media buyers have said EMMA is a much more modern approach to readership measurement, Levine said that its results were questionable. “The numbers are bouncing around a lot. Fusion is tricky, [particularly if] you never quite know who has answered what.”

That kind of volatility could be dangerous for magazines as well as newspapers, she said. “The way the industry is going it won't be worth measuring newspapers. EMMA is killing them [with] publisher-claimed numbers. When the market loses confidence [in the numbers] it will kill newspapers faster than anything else.”

That could see magazines further undermined, she said. “BRW [readership] halved under EMMA. It killed BRW. We don't need too many of those.”

Ipsos boss Simon Wake was dismissive. He said that any decision made of individual titles was a "commercial decision by Fairfax so we can't comment." Responding to criticism about fusing data to the surveys he said it was "a common practice that is used and accepted globally to be robust and reliable".

Fairfax declined to comment but it is understood there was no single reason for BRW's closure. The company stated when announcing the closure of the print component earlier this month that it was part of a broader migration at the publisher.

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