Media monitoring companies are jockeying to reposition themselves as branded content suppliers through licensing agreements that help customers secure media assets for use on their own properties.
Traditionally, brands have used media monitoring for reasons ranging from staying on top of trends and issues to identifying media outlets, reporters, and third-party experts who are most receptive to certain types of stories. Others have used them to show ROI from a publicity campaign.
Now, media monitoring firms are trying to get out in front of the branded content trend.
They predict media monitoring will become an important tool for helping brands identify and secure content, such as a magazine article or a TV news segment about them, which could then be posted on social media pages, thereby extending the reach of a placement.
One staple firm in the space, BurrellesLuce has a copyright compliance program, which it is now making available to other media monitoring companies, says Johna Burke, EVP of BurrellesLuce.
“We want to see PR professionals using it in a compliant way, and we have the infrastructure to facilitate that no matter what company they're using for monitoring,” she says. “We feel it has become an essential component of PR in this digital age.”
Peter Granat, CEO of Cision North America, agrees that “compliance and licensing will be an important part of the business model. Our end-customers just want simplicity in getting access to the content.”
“For them, it is about how to elevate a brand story by using other people's content,” he adds.
Critical Mention's sister platform, Clip Syndicate, has licensing relationships with 30% of broadcasters in the US. The agreement allows its consumers to take video assets from those outlets and post them on their websites and social streams, says Dave Armon, president of Critical Mention.
Tire giant Goodyear, for instance, recently featured a video channel with licensed stories from TV news stations on its Goodyear Blimp website. Most of the news stories feature TV reporters taking a ride inside the blimp, content that Critical Mention helped Goodyear secure.
“This is the beginning of a content marketing business for us,” says Armon.
The promise of the growing branded content trend, which often begins with using content from traditional media, is a good thing for media monitoring companies, which have moved aggressively in recent years into the monitoring of online and social media.
Just over a year ago, Cision sold its US print monitoring assets, which were in decline, to BurrellesLuce. Cision still delivers traditional print monitoring thanks to strategic partnerships, but Granat says it has become a niche service.
“Print is still so important for customer segments such as fashion, beauty and travel, and lifestyle [where seeing the article visually is as important as reading the text], but the business is much smaller than it was just a few years ago,” adds Granat.
Cision has invested in online and social, but he says the firm is not looking to become a digital and social media monitoring player because it is a crowded category with both low-end and high-end offerings. Rather, his firm is focused on tracking content, regardless of where it lives.
“We've seen double-digit increases in all things electronic, but we really view all of it as content whether it's on social media, traditional media, or micro-media such as Twitter,” explains Granat.
Vocus, another firm that offers media monitoring services, has software for PR professionals and businesses that integrates social media monitoring and traditional coverage.
Mark Gambill, who joined Vocus as CMO earlier this month from The Home Depot, where he was VP of integrated media and marketing, explains that his firm is looking to help companies better understand the media environment.
“More social channels are becoming an integral part of how customers interact with businesses and one another, so it is very important that we provide insights and guidance into how social media can complement traditional media efforts and activities,” he adds.
Moving forward, Gambill says Vocus is keen on providing media monitoring services that help customers understand the connections between paid, earned, and owned media.
The agency viewpoint
PRWeek also interviewed a number of research heads at PR firms, who spoke about the impact digital has had on their approach to media monitoring.
Alan Chumley, SVP of research and analytics at FleishmanHillard, predicts that traditional and social media will soon be monitored in similar ways. Just as a blog post about a company may generate a lot of comments, so too can a story on The New York Times website, which invites reader commentary.
“Increasingly, a lot of traditional media is starting to look, feel, and behave like social media; it has become a two-way dialogue even with traditional media,” says Chumley. “A story may be broken via an in-depth investigative piece in The Washington Post, goes social very quickly, and weaves back and forth every day.”
He adds that “this whole traditional-versus-social issue is almost silly. They are very different in some ways, but increasingly they hit toward the same middle,” he adds.
Given the complexity of the media environment, agency executives agree that media monitoring remains important to their businesses because they rely on the data to make insights on behalf of clients.
They all use a mix of vendors – no one who spoke to PRWeek on the topic said they have a complete in-house solution for media monitoring – although they do sometimes have to address gaps in coverage.
Joe Crisci, SVP and MD at Global Strategy Group, points out that paywalls are a challenge for monitoring companies because they can prevent software from finding stories.
“What we sometimes do to backstop that is perform manual scrapes of the sites themselves on our end,” he explains.
To address this issue, media monitoring companies say they strike partnerships with publishers that have paywalled sites.
Margot Savell, SVP and head of global measurement at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, says a challenge for PR firms is determining the best mix of media monitoring offerings. There is no one magic bullet, she explains, despite what some providers might say.
“There are more and more channels where brands and services are being discussed, and so there are more channels to monitor,” says Savell. “So there really isn't a cookie-cutter way to monitor. Today, it needs to be customized to each company's business goals and communications objectives.”
This story was updated on August 27 to correct information about Critical Mention. Its sister platform, Clip Syndicate, has licensing relationships with 30% of broadcasters in the US.