Media research should focus on content and engagement over reach

The old boy network is still alive and kicking but its relevance in media buying is waning. In the past the media industry across Africa ran overwhelmingly on legacy systems based on personal relationships that determined the media houses that would get the most ad-buys; and this was the norm in a world devoid of audience measurement.

As time moved on, however, the introduction of media data began a series of seismic shifts in the media world where audience ratings and pricing deals were considered as part of budget allocations. Not only were new skills required, but there was also a need to review the content carried by media in order to attract the right audiences.

In the 60s, BBC executives said that there was no need for media research because the executives themselves knew exactly what their audiences wanted to watch. How far we have come. Today you can make as many pronouncements as you may like about your viewers, but any media planner worth their salt will ask you to prove each and every one of them before they put a cent into your station.

We are now in the ‘content is king’ era which emphasizes the need to create information, entertainment and advertising material that truly engages target audiences. This  is more important today with online media consumed through personal devices than it was with traditional media consumed through apparatus designed to share the experience with others.

Group dynamics may have made household influencers more prominent in viewing decisions, and perhaps got people to watch content for longer as they waited for a consensus to change the channel. However personal viewing and unilateral selection means that viewers change their content on a whim and at the moment they lose interest.

PAMRO (Pan African Media Research Organization) has announced that the theme for this years media research conference is ‘Content Is King, And He Is One Of Us’. The theme aims to capture the changing media landscape across the continent encourage by the mobile telephony infrastructure that is getting every African connected. Radio’s dominance has been challenged by the Telco’s, and following closely behind cellphone technology is online media that has overtaken Television in some parts of the continent.

Until now, reach has been the biggest factor for any media because those that had the widest geographical footprint would get substantial budgets. However, with growth and the ability to achieve universal reach, airing content that attracts intended audiences in now more important than ever.

We are also witnessing a trend where localized content towers over international content. Well scripted local programs with good production values appeal to the masses as current affairs, familiar storylines and local celebrities rise to prominence. We are selecting the content that means the most to us, and it is local.

At this years conference we are expecting many discussions about this changing landscape with the digital revolution in mind. Bluechip media houses are changing their business models to leverage on the new media consumption environment and we’d like to know what kind of information they need to successfully transform.

We are also looking forward to receiving updates on the latest passive measurement projects taking place in various parts of the continent. Passive measurement refers to the ability to collect media consumption data through devices and applications that don’t require any respondent intervention and are able to do so continuously and accurately. Due to the fact that passive measurement has not been implemented widely across Africa, there will be important lessons we can learn from the markets that have adopted these techniques.

For the past 18 years PAMRO has been focused on ensuring that we have reliable media trading currencies across African. We now have to lead the way and encourage our members to look to the future and consider the trading currency for digital and social media and to provide independent, consistent and reliable data for the stakeholders. The numbers were are relying on are generated by the media themselves, which lacks independence. Also, the new media platforms are more interested in reach numbers, yet the trend is towards engagement. It is indeed the research agencies that have the ability to collect and share this type of data.

Media research can be costly and therefore a definitive model is needed to deliver value to the media stakeholders and various markets have their own systems to fund it. At the conference, we expect a number of conversations around this especially with a focus on digital media.

We hold the PAMRO annual conferences in rotation between countries in the East, West and South of the continent to encourage deep immersion into culture and to build an understanding of local nuances and common issues. This years conference is scheduled for the 27th to the 30th of August in Cape Town, South Africa.


2 thoughts on “Media research should focus on content and engagement over reach

  1. Hello Joe, I have been trying to get hold of you so that we could discuss a number of media related issues.  To start with back last year whilst i was still with Ipsos, you shared a book called The Nuts n Bolts of media planning.  I really want to purchase this book but AMASA from SA have not responded to my emails.  Is there anyone i can get in touch with to have this book?  Thanks Raymond Chongo

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.


    1. Raymond, it’s great to hear from you. The book that I shared was by Graham Mytton, a guru in audience research and a past president of PAMRO. You can find his books on GoodReads and I’ve pasted the links here:

      The last one is the handbook that I shared with you a few years ago.

      I hope you enjoy the reading.



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