Sifting Through the Bulls**t

It’s amazing what some people will say to make a sale.  In the media business, quantitative analysis – e.g. number of readers, viewers or listeners; audience demographics; cost per thousand target audience – are typical metrics for making media buying decisions.  Yet most local buyers (and advertising agencies) rely on sales reps rather than independent, third-party sources to supply this information.  In Brevard – a relatively small and unsophisticated media market – advertisers oftentimes encounter claims from media outlets that are “unsubstantiated” (or, the more technical term, “bulls**t”).

One local publisher, for example, claimed to have 125,000 readers … before ever publishing its first magazine!  Their rationale was based on printing 25,000 magazines and having 5 readers per copy (an “industry average,” their media kit professed).  While they may have been truthful in their intended printing quantity, stacks of magazines that sit around the county that are never picked up or read should hardly count as readers.  The fact is: only three individual local media products currently reach over 100,000 adults in Brevard County.

The Media Audit is an annual local market multimedia research study conducted and syndicated by International Demographics Inc.  Their telephone interviewing and sampling methodologies are recognized and accepted by publishers, radio and television stations, Internet companies and other media outlets across the U.S.  Access to this data is expensive – in Brevard, only SCB Marketing and a few other media outlets purchase the information – leaving other local media companies to find “alternative means” (such as guessing or making up numbers) for quantifying their audience in marketing to their potential advertisers.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Radio reps like to boast about their “low cost per thousand listeners,” as the average radio spot may sell for only a few dollars and production is often included in the cost of a media buy.  The problem, in this case, is frequency.  It takes the typical listener 5-7 times hearing a commercial before they actually process the message.  How many times must your spot air in a week for your target customer to hear it 5-7 times?  And can you effectively reach your audience through this media?  In Brevard, the highest rated radio station according to The Media Audit was WA1A (FM 107.1), which only 10.6 percent of the market said they listened to at least one time during a 7-day period.

In fact, many of Brevard’s top rated radio stations aren’t even local – WWKA (K92FM), WJRR (101.1 FM), WTKS (Real Radio 104.1 FM) and WHTQ (96.5 FM) are all Orlando channels.  And, of course, we’re all aware there are no local network television affiliates serving the Space Coast, only small independent cable stations such as Brevard Community College’s WBCC-TV.

New Media

Internet marketing is a relatively new option for local advertisers and resources for analyzing local website performance are not easy to ascertain, especially without purchasing the data.  Compete.com provides some basic visitor data for established websites but doesn’t offer analytics reports without subscribing.  This often means advertisers must rely on the media rep to provide their own form of web analytics rather than a standard, third party reporting organization.

Social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) is a bit easier to track as the number of “friends” and “fans” is typically public.  SpaceCoast Living, for example, has over 3,500 friends on its Facebook page, making it one of the county’s most popular online communities, as well as an added-value tool for advertisers seeking an integrated marketing program.

Buyers Beware

My purpose in writing this article was not to suggest the media industry is untrustworthy (it’s not) or that most media sales reps misrepresent their product (they don’t), but to remind buyers that purchasing media is no different than purchasing other goods and services – understand your options and choose what best solves your problem using fact-based (and not emotion-based) decision-making.  And on those occasions when a media rep’s sales pitch smells like something you’d find in a cow pasture, better put your boots on before you step in something you’ll regret later!


Building Communities…Online

Local Media Facebook Sites No. of Friends or Fans*
SpaceCoast Living 4,571
Spacecoast Business 1,901
Metromix Brevard 1,658
Bright House Networks 1,658
FLORIDA TODAY 1,465
The Beachside Resident 606
102.7 WHKR The Hit Kicker 282
107.1 A1A 227
Spaces Magazine 133
Brevard LIVE 58

*As of June 13, 2010