Out of the Blue: PR Measurement News

Friday, September 2, 2005 Public Relations Measurement Newsletter: Internet Impressions   VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2  
TOPICS
Public Relations Measurement
Promotions
Reminders
Other PR Topics (not measurement)
CONTENTS
How Many People Saw "That!"?
Creating Press Releases that the Media Love
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ARCHIVE
Public Relations Measurement Newsletter: Reputation
August 3, 2005
Vol. 1 Issue 1
September 2, 2005
How Many People Saw "That!"?
Measuring the Audience Reach of Internet News Sources
www.blue-marble.com
by Neal Combs

Americans Behaving Badly
The Beijing Evening News, a newspaper offered up to 6.6 million people in Beijing, as the gospel according to, well…, according to them, recently published a story reporting the imminent departure of the United States Congress from Washington, D.C.

    Mirroring the trend of professional sports teams, unless a newer, more fan friendly Capitol building was built that provided better sight lines, more bathrooms, increased parking, dancing fountains and better concession stands, Congress was going to take their show to Charlotte or Las Vegas, depending on who put together the most attractive financial package.

    “How many times can you put a fresh coat of paint over an old, broken-down horse? We need a building that befits our status as the nation’s number-one democratically elected legislative body. And if D. C. isn’t willing to provide that, I can think of plenty of other cities that would be more than happy to,” stated one of the Hold-A-City-Hostage committee members.

The only problem with the story was that it originally ran in The Onion, a weekly satire paper chock full of untrue, although very funny, articles. (Definitive translation across language or cultural boundaries is difficult when dealing with satire or statistics.) After discovering the real nature and intent of The Onion, The Beijing Evening News printed a retraction that was probably funnier than the story.

    “Some small American newspapers frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them, with the aim of making money. This is what The Onion does.”

 
How Black Was That Eye?
Did millions of Chinese read this story online, shake their collective heads at the absolute weirdness of capitalism and American politics and believe that Congress was shipping out for Vegas? That’s a potentially good idea, since what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but common sense says, “No.” Not because it isn’t strange or even semi-plausible. (We harbor plenty of weirdness and semi-plausibility in our political system.)

Truthfully, it's very difficult to prove how many net-news surfers paddle over any particular story while it appears onscreen but probably no more than a couple of hundred thousand people in China read the original erroneous story. (We’ll show you some math later in this article.) That’s a very small fraction of the total population of China (1.3 billion) or even the total population of Beijing (6.6 million).
 
Salesmen Aren’t Scientific … (Can You Prove That?)
If you were selling advertising, you’d probably want buyers to hear 6.6 million, not the lower number. You would prefer to believe in the potential to reach all 6.6 million people who inhabit Beijing. But let’s check in with reality. That would mean that every baby, every school child, every old person, every indigent person, every ill person, every citizen in every location sees the news. It would mean that each one of them has access to a computer and an Internet connection and actually visits the site and reads all the news on the day it is posted online. Now that does not seem quite like reality, does it? Unfortunately, it is probably true that Internet news sources publish the highest possible audiences to lure more advertisers.

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) has determined that there are two “basic requisites” for suitable measurement: demographically defined audiences and the ability to reliably accumulate those over a period of time.[1] Since these two factors are sorely lacking from most Internet news measurements, the numbers they provide should be approached with some degree of skepticism. The ARF says that Internet audience numbers are completely different from other media and it is almost impossible to compare them on a like-for-like basis.

 
Vulcan Logic in Cyberspace
While impressions measurement and auditing in the online news environment might be in its infancy, it’s not impossible to make a realistic, relative assessment of how many visitors see the news. Let’s look at North American Internet news sources[2] and see what we can learn. First, we can separate the online news sources into categories by how frequently they update the news. Second, we can compute average monthly and daily visitors for each category easily. Then, we can apply multiples or divisors based on how long the news remains where visitors will read it (without searching backwards in time).
 
WHAT INTERNET NEWS MEDIA AUDIENCE AVERAGES MAKE SENSE

WHAT INTERNET NEWS MEDIA AUDIENCE AVERAGES MAKE SENSE?

 

 

Update Frequency

# of Internet News Sources

% of Total Internet News Sources

Average Unique Visitors per Month

Average Unique Daily Visitors

What Can We Really Count?

Why?

Weekly

21

6%

3,352,628

111,754

782,280

(7 days worth of visitors will see your news.)

Monthly

12

4%

2,809,763

93,659

2,809,763

(All of the month's visitors will see your news.)

Mon thru Fri

67

20%

4,301,118

143,371

163,853

(1-3 days of visitors will see your news.)

Hourly

10

3%

3,108,450

103,615

51,808

(1-12 hours worth of visitors will see your news.)

Daily

124

37%

3,371,785

112,393

112,393

(1 days worth of visitors will see your news.)

Continuous

88

26%

10,852,754

361,758

135,659

(Your news lasts long enough for about 9 hours of visitors to see it.)

2-3 Times Per Week

7

2%

2,967,784

98,926

286,886

(Your news is seen by 2.9 days worth of visitors.)

Other

7

2%

5,093,143

169,771

169,771

(1 day's visitors, but it's an inconsistent average.)

All methods

336

100%

4,482,178

149,406

N/A

(There's too much variance in the audiences being studied to use this as a "real" number for any measurement.)

 
Savvy, proactive PR professionals will consider many factors when sending news releases to Internet news sources. How often is the content updated? How many unique visitors can be quantified? To what audience does this news source appeal? Does targeting Internet news sources cause me to shorten my news, leaving out positive details because of shorter news formats?

Use your logic. If you are sending your press release to a site that updates hourly, your particular story has a very short shelf life. Instead, ask your PR measurement company to identify some of the longer lasting news sources and how to send press releases to them. Volume is not everything. The unique daily visitors at a continuously updated news site may be three times higher than at a site that is refreshed weekly, but may also be entirely missing your targeted demographic audience.
 

Have you heard the one about …
Any bets on how many Chinese people read the retraction? Even more interesting, how many folks read the retraction first and then sought out the original story? The story about the story certainly generated more impressions than the original toungue-in-cheek report but they reflected on The Beijing Evening News more than on the Congress of the United States.



[1] Source: Media Post, MediaDailyNews, 8/29/2005, “ARF: No Medium's Audience Research Is Adequate” by Joe Mandese
[2] Data source: Bacon’s Media Research, 336 published online unique monthly visitors and update frequencies as of 8/29/2005.

[PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION]
Published by Blue Marble Enterprises, Inc.
Copyright © 2005 Blue Marble Enterprises, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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