I got the following from Neil Ackland last week and loved it – so I’ve been hassling him to allow me to run it on Talking Digital.
Neil is MD of Sound Alliance, the company behind inthemix, fasterlouder, qjump,mess&noise and samesame as well as marketing company Thought By Them.
Sound Alliance have launched a blog and this is the lead post – you should check it out. I’ve known Neil for around 6 years now and have always liked what the SA team have done – it’s a great business and has been recognised by the industry as well as BRW as a great place to work and an innovator.
Have a read of the below.
Publishers love nothing more than touting their ‘category leader’ credentials. Whether it’s real estate, cars, business, news or any other category, being the recognised leader almost always equals more advertising dollars. In a highly competitive environment, it’s a simple, easy catch-cry that sales people use with agencies, who in-turn use it with clients to convince them that the site is the best recipient of the lion’s share of their spend. And why not? It makes complete sense as a marketing message that carries weight and influences decisions. But who polices the categories? And what happens when a publisher just decides to make one up for their own benefit?
The acknowledged category police for online is Nielsen Netratings – and they do a good job – so it’s very disappointing to see their data being inappropriately manipulated.
At Sound Alliance, our sites have always been categorised by Nielsen Netratings correctly in music, which is a subset of broader entertainment. In the months where inthemix takes the top spot in its regular tussle with ninemsn’s musicfix, our sales team proudly beats its chest and we talk up our category leader status. In the months we miss out we just work harder to win back the leader status.
Fairfax, who launched its self-labelled ‘Youth’ website The Vine a bit over a year ago with relative success has been categorised by Nielsen Netratings as multi-category entertainment, as it lacks a single content focus, covering news, music, fashion and tech. Netratings duplication tool gives you a fairly strong clue as to where the traffic is coming from. Over 85% of The Vine’s visitors also visited either the smh or The Age websites in July. Un-surprisingly this strategy has worked with The Vine edging just ahead of our biggest site inthemix in daily unique browsers. However according to Netratings The Vine sits at ninth in its designated category of multi-category entertainment. And ninth isn’t a sexy story.
The solution Fairfax came up with was simple. They made up their own category and called it Youth. By manipulating Nielsen NetRatings data from two different categories; entertainment & music into their newly imagined category, they declared themselves number one.
Youthy looking people (one even has dreadlocks!) jumping with excitement at being young
Press releases were drawn up stating that The Vine was the number one Youth website and a few media even fell for the beat up, proclaiming that “The Vine ensares [sic] Gen Y!”
The Smoking Gun
But there’s a huge problem here. Netratings doesn’t break audiences down by age. It groups sites by content type because it can’t break down audiences by age. So Fairfax has misled the market by making up a new category and trying to attach Nielsen NetRatings credentials to it. And boy, do their sales team love brandishing their self-proclaimed number one status!
If you’re an advertiser wanting to reach 18-29s, before you succumb to the sales hype I’d be asking whether The Vine’s traffic comes from the ‘youth’ they claim it to be and how The Vine can substantiate that claim.
Now I’m not claiming inthemix is number one in youth either because there’s no recognised, unified, third party data available to prove the claim. I do know that the inthemix subscriber data and membership data gives us accurate, up to date demographic info for our audience – and I know that inthemix has over 175,000 members and 100,000 subscribers, a large percentage of which are in the 18-29 “youth” category. I also know that Sound Alliance as a publisher of a range of music sites is far and away the leading Australian music publisher audited by Nielsen NetRatings. These are all facts.
So I challenge The Vine to tell the market how they substantiate their Number one youth audience claims. A sample size from a focus group or online survey won’t cut it either. We want to see real, substantial data.
I like to think that we should all be on an even playing field, so making up a category and then claiming to be first in it, just isn’t cricket.
*Data used was provided using Nielsen Netratings Market Intelligence July 2009
Make sure you check the Sound Alliance Blog at – http://blog.thesoundalliance.net/