With the imminent introduction of digital technology, it is
predicted that hundreds of new television and radio stations will appear
virtually overnight. Keeping track of what appears on these new media
would seem to be an enormous task. So just how are those in the business
of monitoring the media preparing for the onslaught?
’There may be a large increase in the number of stations, but the amount
of commercially viable, interesting news content won’t increase in the
same proportion,’ says David Clarke, divisional manager of Broadcast
Monitoring Company, part of the Financial Times Electronic Publishing
Dean Wading, sales manager at Parker Bishop, the broadcast monitoring
company agrees. ’Assuming that out of 100 new stations, 90 per cent of
them will be re-running olds soaps and second-rate American chat shows,
it may be only 10 per cent which have a rolling news service or are
aimed at a specific industry that will have to be monitored.
’However,’ he adds, ’the introduction of digital television will
certainly create greater opportunities for our clients to generate more
stories and this will have a knock-on effect for the monitoring
These opinions are based on research carried out into the industry, but
also on the experiences of cable television monitoring. Even with the
current number of radio and TV stations in Europe, a huge amount of news
is simply syndicated to the different stations, without anything new
Judith Hickling, director of operations at Tellex Monitors points out
that it is already necessary to prepare each month for the numerous new
radio stations, as new licences are granted.
’We will be applying the same evaluation process to digital television
and radio stations as we do at present,’ she says. This means it will
evaluate the quality and provide what cover clients want.
Monitoring is very much a client-led industry, and Clarke points to the
fact that clients are now far more discerning than they were 10 years
ago, when they wanted a copy of every transcript of every broadcast that
’We are monitoring more, but delivering less. Clients want to know when
and where they have received quality coverage, rather than the fact
they’ve been mentioned a thousand times,’ says Clarke.
And although it is possible to monitor a huge range of media, clients
are focusing on national and regional television and radio stations.
After all, they are still interested in what the public is actually
hearing and seeing about their company, not in what’s available to be
Ask those involved in press monitoring about new technological
developments and the response is ambivalent.
The latest technology to hit the industry means it is possible to scan
entire newspapers into a scanner and use Optical Character Recognition
(OCR) software to convert newsprint to text, which is then downloaded to
a computer from which one can perform a key word search.
Speak to different people in the industry and you’ll get a differing
opinion on the penetration of this scanning/ OCR technology - some
estimate that everyone is already using the technology but keeping
quiet. Others say that anyone who claims to be using this technology
already is exaggerating.
One problem that is putting-off some from embracing new technology is
the word search problem. A search is indiscriminate, it will pull up any
article that mentions, for example, the client’s name, but will miss out
on finding an article about other issues that are relevant to a client,
but don’t mention it by name.
While Martin Knight, director of Precise Press Cuttings agrees that new
technology won’t be able to replace a human reader, he says that the
word search problem isn’t a problem at all.
’It’s up to a client to ensure that they tell the agency exactly what
areas they want covered. It won’t replace an intelligent reader, but it
will ensure that there are less missed articles and improve the service
One area where technology really is affecting the monitoring industry -
both broadcast and press - is in the way clients receive their cuttings
and transcripts. But along with other technological developments, this
is seen as something of a double-edged sword by many in the
It’s possible, of course, to both notify a client of coverage
electronically (as opposed to leaving messages by telephone) and e-mail
transcripts or cuttings directly to them. However, at the moment it
costs twice as much to transmit the information digitally as it does by
the old-fashioned, hard-copy, hand-delivered method.
As Jonathan Shepherd marketing director of press cuttings agency
Durrants points out: ’Even if cuttings are delivered electronically, the
first thing a client would want to do is print it out.’ This incurs
’The technology is there to transmit articles and transcripts by
e-mail,’ says Shepherd, ’however the licence that is required is
expensive and administratively prohibitive.
One way that monitoring agencies are avoiding this issue, and helping
their clients at the same time, is by offering what is variously
described as a precis, an abstract or, more simply, a summary.
The advantage of this method is that it avoids the copyright issue since
a summary is the intellectual property of the monitoring company. It
also means that clients can receive a lot more diverse information
without having to trawl through pages of coverage.
So how does themonitoring industry expect to move forward and keep pace
with technological advances? The industry is anticipating a change but
as Hickling says: ’It is an exciting time for the monitoring sector, but
it’s too early to tell where it will all lead.’
ON-LINE MONITORING: TARGETING ELECTRONIC AUDIENCES
Question most people about on-line monitoring and there’s not much
enthusiasm. Yet as Robert Silver, manager of net.cut, the internet
monitoring arm of Romeike and Curtice says: ’If you really want to know
what is being said about you, you need to look at the internet.’
A number of crises have begun from stories that have broken on-line -
for example last month ecology activists destroyed a field of
genetically-engineered research crops in Gloucestershire after
information about the farm was posted on the Friends of the Earth web
So can all on-line information be monitored? Not everything can be
covered, says Seattle-based Robert Grupe, associate director of Text
100. ’For example, anyone can create a chat channel. But established
chat channels can be monitored as can bulletin boards on web sites.’
However it is possible to target news groups, e-zines (on-line
magazines), chat channels and other focus groups that you know are
likely to be talking about you. It’s good to know what’s being said
IQ Information Services (recently acquired by the Word Group) offers
such a service, sending out ’intelligence agents’ to search out where
companies are being discussed. They can be ’trained’ as to the type of
reference they pick up, so over time an increasingly accurate tracking
service develops. June Dawson, managing director of the Word Group,
explains the company was bought because of the importance of access to
timely, acurate information. ’Quality information is an incredibly
powerful tool in PR.’
Text 100 offers on-line services as part of its overall PR package, and
the on-line team is responsible for both disseminating information and
monitoring what is being said about its clients. Information is gathered
by targeting certain news groups, using established search engines and
monitoring points, such as focus groups or chat channels.
The net.cut service is purely a gathering one-as well as targeting
e-zines, it uses web-crawler software to search the internet for
Clients are e-mailed material twice a day, but Silver insists that
everything is quality checked before it’s passed.
One of the features of monitoring on-line coverage is that the client is
able to participate in the news as it’s being put out-misinformation can
be corrected on the spot. But Grupe warns against getting too involved
in what’s being said about your company. ’Technically you may be able to
monitor on-line,’ he says, ’but you need to understand the on-line
So how easy is it to persuade clients of the importance of on-line
Grupe admits that establishing a crisis management strategy, especially
one which involves on-line monitoring, is still difficult. And yet, he
argues, ’The on-line community may be a relatively small one, but it’s
made up of industry influencers, and they are discussing issues in
Certain industries, such as IT and financial sectors are particularly
interested in information on-line as it can affect their whole
evaluation of a situation, and they will happily troll for
Compared to newspaper and broadcast reach, in terms of raw numbers it
may not be as many but, as Grupe says, it’s an influential
NATIONWIDE: KEEPING AHEAD OF THE CARPET-BAGGERS
On July 23 this year, members of the Nationwide Building Society will
again vote on whether to remain a mutual society.
Since last year’s AGM, where members voted against demutualisation, the
society has been thrust into the media spotlight.
’With the ever increasing variety of media and the need to deal with
news in real-time, we need to have an advanced approach to keep on the
ball,’ says the Nationwide’s head of external affairs, Paul
’It’s no longer a case of browsing through yesterday’s press cuttings
the next morning.’
The society has a comprehensive system of information gathering
services-press cuttings are delivered early each morning, it has a
real-time broadcast monitoring service, on-line news agency services and
the press office does its own internet monitoring.
Atkinson emphasises the team effort that goes into monitoring - for
example, the Treasury will inform the corporate communications team very
quickly of any changes in base rates from the Bank of England so that
the first it hears about it is not from a journalist asking how it will
affect interest rates.
Because Nationwide is a member-led organisation, the communications team
are conscious that its cuttings are ordered by reach to the mass market,
not to financial analysts. Therefore there is a strong focus on
broadcast coverage, and a product mention in the Sun, for example, will
be placed above an in-depth story about interest rates in the Financial
The company is also active in evaluating its public perception. Since
1993 it has been analysing how the organisation’s messages are getting
across to the public and the strength of message in the national media
as well as tracking key competitors.
As the Nationwide board is arguing against the demutualisation, saying
that long-term gains will outweigh the short-term windfall, it is
important to monitor what the opposition is saying. The board is aware
of user-groups on the internet, ’carpet-bagger’ coversations, their
campaiging tools and media lobbying, and can counteract.
Perhaps some communications teams dream of having the budget to cover
all these bases, but as Atkinson says: ’For Nationwide, it is important
to keep the balance right. It is members’ funds which are being spent,
but as the media and other opinion formers have an increasing effect on
the success, or otherwise of businesses, its public reputation is
critical. We must make the investment in monitoring information.’
KODAK: KEEPING ITSELF IN THE DIGITAL PICTURE
In an industry where the challenge is to keep pace monitoring is
Digital imaging - the area which covers digital cameras, CD media and
images on computers, as opposed to film - is one such industry. PR
manager for Kodak digital and applied imaging, Joanna Goodwin, says: ’We
launch new products every four months. Competitors in the market have
increased six-fold since the end of 1996 and this has resulted in a
burgeoning PC media community.’
As a result, Goodwin-whose remit covers Europe, the Middle East and
Africa-finds that it is imperative to monitor and evaluate the media
coverage of her key markets. Without a huge PR team, it is necessary for
the evaluation to be outsourced.
Since January 1997 Mantra has handled media evaluation for Goodwin,
evaluating coverage and translating any European coverage in-house,
presenting the data in a quarterly report.
Goodwin finds Mantra’s monitoring is necessary for several reasons. It
is vital that all the coverage received in both the well-established
media and in the newer, niche titles is analysed to see how well the
Kodak message has been put forward.
But it is also important that media evaluation has enabled Goodwin to
prove the value of PR. She says that while Kodak is a forward-thinking
company that takes PR seriously, she had to prove the credibility of PR
before winning large budgets. However, evaluation has helped her do
She says: ’In 1997 a PR budget of USdollars 1 million was invested and
at the end of the year I was able to prove that the PR programme had
given a return of USdollars 6 million in terms of positive PR
Like other PR professionals, Goodwin sees evaluation of coverage as an
important PR tool for planning strategy. Mantra’s quarterly reports are
circulated by Goodwin to other staff, both in the UK and in the US, and
are sometimes used to give tips on product pricing and perception.
However, it’s not just the good news about Kodak’s publicity that
Goodwin is interested in. It is important, she says, to find out what
the media has actually said, rather than what the PR team hoped they
Goodwin is pragmatic about ’bad’ cuttings, and says that the public
relations industry could do itself many favours by admitting when a
campaign isn’t working.
If evaluation indicates that messages were not favourable, Goodwin says
it is important to share this information internally. ’Bad hits can be
related back to product development and other issues,’ she argues. ’Bad
coverage is not necessarily a bad reflection on a PR person.’