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Middletown Media Studies – “A Day in The Life”

By | September 18, 2006 11:23 am

Every year about now the Online Publishers Association does something really useful for itself and for the rest of us. It commissions a major survey of its market (and often of its potential markets too, sensibly enough).

This year, an observational study conducted for them by Ball State University’s Center For Media Design based in Indiana got the Association thinking – mostly about crossing the boundaries between different media, boundaries that are getting ever more permeable anyway.

Surprising nobody, I guess, the survey (in an overall collection called Middletown Media Studies, and specifically entitled in this instance “A Day in The Life”) shows that reaching consumers in their homes and workplaces is best done, concertedly, through more than one medium.

(Available in full as a PDF)

Take television for instance. The Center’s researchers confirmed the tried and trusted notion that while TV can at its most successful (and at the most-viewed points of the day, in the evening) achieve a reach of up to 91 percent of the available audience, much more frequently it obviously sits in the lower reach percentages. But say you’re a communicator reaching just 41 percent through TV, you can increase that reach by up to an additional 23 percentage points – if you combine your message with linked material on the web.

If you’re a magazine publisher, employing the web for a joint thrust into the marketplace pays off even more, at least doubling, or in some cases even quadrupling the reach. The “A Day in the Life” respondents who read a magazine in the evening leaped from 31 percent to 72 percent if they had seen associated web material.

OPA members like the glossy magazine producers Conde Nast, one of the early leaders in blending the on-line with offline, are already acting on the behavioral information this survey lays out. They are providing successful cross-media purchasing programs for their advertisers, and so leveraging their magazine properties in virtual lockstep with their websites. TV companies like CBS are also building their online platform as a venue that advertisers can buy space on in combination with on-air spot-buying, and reach more viewers/visitors accordingly.

Some of the wrinkly little detail of the survey is very revealing. Along with an increasing number of audience measurement sources, it counteracts that hard-to-crumble stereotype of web-users as mainly young men. The increasingly homogeneous nature of the audience is well demonstrated what OPA President Pam Horan calls “the mark of a true mass medium.”

And every bit as important as WHO makes up the audience is the question of WHERE it is.

Television may inevitably rank No. 1 in home reach for all age and/gender groups. But the survey shows the web to be the only medium to rank No. 1 or No. 2 at both home and work. And of course it’s the undisputed No. 1 whenever the consumer is at work – whether employers like it or not.

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