Unique audience – who has one?

The word ‘unique’ is used a lot around digital. Specifically unique browsers … a term that I am sure was invented to confuse clients.

It’s also used to describe sales opportunities and responses – ‘this is a unique opportunity’.

Both are confusing to be honest.

Anyway – there was an article last week running on Fairfax’s websites that focused on charging users for news/content online and contained analysis from Nielsen.


Drawing on a panel of 7000 online users in Australia, Nielsen argued yesterday that in contrast to newspaper readers, consumers on the internet did not show enough loyalty to any particular news provider to subscribe to a provider’s coverage. More than 70 per cent of visitors to Fairfax Media’s websites also read those of its main rival, News Ltd, it said.

While in the past people would buy the same newspaper every day, internet users were seeking news coverage from multiple sources, Mark Higginson, Nielsen’s director of analytics, said. ”No one really does own the news consumer any more.”

Would it be fair to say online, no one really owns ANY consumer anymore?

The duplication across sites is staggering and it happens across all categories.

So much that you could basically not spend with 2-3 of the large 5 publishers and it would make NO difference in an audience reach sense.

Now, I’m not recommending doing this … but it must be a concern to a large scale internet play with significant investment and/or debt that really doesn’t have anything unique to offer the market.

Luckily for most, it’s something that plagues everyone and is rarely discussed.

With newspapers generally you either read a News Ltd title or a Fairfax title. With the news on TV the same thing. It’s difficult to watch 2 different TV shows across an hour bracket, let alone 10 or 20.

No other media has the same duplication issues … with online a user could look at 5-10 news/sport/entertainment/business etc sites EVERY day. They could be reading 3 titles at once. And at the same time be on Facebook and Messenger.

As an advertiser which one do you use? And how?

It’s looking more and more likely that spreading digital investment across as many suppliers as many of us are just isn’t feasible. Especially when many are doing the same thing as their competitors.

Right now if you look at large scale AU digital businesses in a consumer facing sense – most are clones. They have the same categories covered. Focus on the same news. Have minimal unique material and rely on the same things to drive their traffic volume.

Does this mean there will be more effort into building a unique audience, or will operators continue to just do what everyone else is doing and chase the same dream?


2 responses to “Unique audience – who has one?

  1. This commoditisation of engagement has many possible implications, Ben. For example, if you want to reach a certain number of consumers, does this mean that buying X number of impressions (or whatever) all on one site would be any more or less effective than buying X/5 on five different clone networks? It’s all a bit scattershot… unless you have a cookie that works across all five networks. Which is what the major ad providers use these days, correct me if I’m wrong. So that in theory, a campaign would be able to be run across all five networks with the cookie making sure that each unique user (where unique is not a bulltish word) only gets to see the ad so many times.

    I’m not in advertising, but my guess would be that this means that a big campaign needs to run on all five of those networks to ensure maximum uniques, as you need to get the 30% of FFX that don’t go to News, and so on with all five to get to all parts of the Venn diagram. But the modern cookie-based ad serving software makes it much easier to manage that without wasting dollars.

  2. Who’d have thunk it?!?! That online news sites have duplicate users. Well, me for one.

    In the physical world of paper and ink, cost plays a large part in the lack of duplicate readers. When I was a lad my father, God rest his soul, used to buy the Sun and the Daily Mirror every day. I couldn’t fathom it … same news I thought … but he did. Even back then, my father was the exception – neither paper owned him. But now, the days of duplicate newspaper readers is long gone, not the least because we tend to have “single masthead” markets now.

    Ben, you’re 100% right in that “no-one owns the consumer” any more, especially in the online world – if indeed any media vehicle ever did. Given the abundance of available online sites, duplication is the norm and not the exception. The cost of duplication online is zero.

    To provide some perspective, I took the liberty to look at some TV data to see how TV news is affected. I “pooled” the weekday and weekend metro 6pm news bulletins for Seven and Nine across the month of August (to match the Nielsen report), and looked at the reach (i.e. those who consumed at least part of one of the 31 newscasts). I only did Seven and Nine because they are head-to-head each night (can’t watch them sequentially – it is pure choice) and to keep this simple.

    The August All People reach for Seven was 9.170m (63%), and for Nine was 8.992m (61.8%). But when I “pooled” Seven and Nine the reach went up to 11.139m (76.5%).

    This means that of the 11.139m who watched either Seven or Nine:
    * 1.969m is the incremental reach provided to the Seven base by adding in the Nine viewers (11.139m – 9.170m)
    * 2.147m is the incremental reach provided to the Nine base by adding in the Seven viewers (11.139m-8.992m)

    In percentage terms, the 1.969m Nine viewers who also watched Seven represent 22% of their 8.992 base, and the 2.147m Seven viewers who also watched Nine represent 23% of their 9.170m base.

    While TV also has a zero cost of duplication, the fact that there are only 31 x 30-minute windows of opportunity for duplication on TV as opposed to the 31 x 24-hours of opportunity online, I am not surprised that we see 71% duplication online.

    Yes, charging for online news content will provide a barrier – but it all depends on what the cost is. If it is the masthead cost then few if any will pay. If it is a micro-payment I think the idea could fly. But the key thing is that the 22-23% duplication of Seven and Nine news shows that the TV networks don’t “own” the news consumer either, and it sure hasn’t hurt them!

    By the way, I finally worked out the reason why dad bought both papers during his last days in the nursing home. Dad loved the crossword puzzles and the word jumble, and he could get unduplicated puzzles by buying both papers! Neither paper ‘owned’ my dad – he was loyal to the crosswords!

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