Media monitors - a growing force

LONDON - In the wake of TNS Media Intelligence's acquisition of Presswatch Media, the former's managing director argues how such deals should benefit the PR industry.

There has never been a time of more dramatic change in the med­ia monitoring ind­ustry. Faced with the challenges of a global, 24-hour media environment that is ever more fragmented, not to mention the growth of digital channels, the monitoring industry is going through global consolidation.

Over the next few years, leading brands in the sector will merge, and new, bigger companies will be born. The effects of this on the profession’s biggest client base – the PR industry – will be long-lasting.

Not only will PR executives find themselves working with bigger suppliers (until rec­ently these have been small and medium-sized companies), but these firms should provide acc­ess to better products and services.

Earlier this month, the company I manage – TNS Media Intelligence – acquired one of the UK’s leading med­ia information providers, Presswatch Media (PRWeek, 12 Jan).

The rationale behind the acquisition was simple, and is a good illustration of what is driving similar consolidation in the media monitoring industry across the globe.

Acquiring growth
The purchase of Presswatch has allowed us to grow and expand our product portfolio swiftly in the media tracking and evaluation market nat­ionally and globally. For TNS, like the many other companies finding growth through a similar strategy, acquisition enables us to simultaneously boost the portfolio of products and services available to our clients, and the range of geographies monitored.

The TNS global network currently operates across 70 countries, with TNS Media Intelligence operating in 23. The demand from PROs and other clients is increasingly for monitoring of advertising expenditure, sports sponsorship evaluation and med­ia monit­oring and evaluation across all media, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But not all media monitoring companies will follow this path. While acq­uisition makes strategic sense for many companies in the sector, some have been buoyed by increasing interest from private equity. As a profitable business sector, med­ia monitoring has become a hot favourite in the City, with private equity firms investing in companies with strong growth in a market showing ongoing demand for more efficient monitoring of global media.

In April last year, for example, Durrants – one of the UK’s leading media monitoring companies, with 2,300 clients – was sold by August Equity to Exponent Private Equity in an £82m transaction – six times what August Equity paid in 2000. Such changes in ownership are becoming common.

It would be understandable at this stage for anyone in the PR industry to be concerned about the future of relationships with their key suppliers. Natural worries about escalating costs and a lack of choice will arise. However, on the contrary, the PR industry will also benefit from consolidation – for two further reasons.

First, media monitoring’s value today lies not in the raw data (which does not change, regardless of who provides it) but in the value-added services these companies can provide to clients, such as in-depth evaluation, instant reporting and global coverage.

Competition is, and will remain, int­ense. We will continue to compete on price, and the client will reap the benefits of more affordable services.

The second advantage lies in the size and strength of resources assembled through consolidation. This, for me, represents one of the most exciting opportunities faced by the industry and our clients for many years.

Not so long ago, labour-intensive media monitoring companies spent the majority of their time reading thousands of pages manually, compiling clippings with scissors and glue and then writing reports for their clients. At best, the client could expect the written report inside a fortnight.

A few years ago, this laborious process was superseded by technology that scans all media – print, radio, TV, and the web. The results and analysis are made available to the people who need them almost instantly via bespoke websites, email or PDA.

As a result, most PR professionals are used to accessing media monitoring reports with straigh­t­forward analysis on their desktops before 7am every working day.

Service improvement
More sophisticated services across all media – such as those that identify individual journalists who are writing or reporting on a company or brand in a positive or negative light – are now commonplace, allowing client organisations to respond instantly.

But the combination of consolidation and competition will mean more than just improvements to existing products and services. It will also mean the creation of new services.

Expect to see further innovation in areas such as instant delivery of global content and evaluation, and the creation of combined media intelligence and market research reporting, just for starters.

TNS offers a range of unique services, such as real-time broadcast and press evaluation and single-point access for broadcast and press co-ordination. And the PR industry will see new innovations from our sector, created to add real value to the business of PR professionals.
The top two global groups are:

Observer Group (owner of Romeike) and TNS Media Intelligence. Observer Group has 50,000 clients worldwide with a media database containing 900,000 media contacts in over 150 countries. The company monitors 50,000 print, broadcast and online media outlets.

TNS Media Intelligence is owned by Taylor Nelson Sofres, the market research and infor­ma­tion giant.

TNS tracks three million brands and has 16,000 customers around the world. The com­pany currently has a presence in 23 coun­tries.

The biggest media monitors in the UK by turnover are:

Precise Media
TNS Media Intelligence

by Madeleine Kernot


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