A Sydneysider dressed as a Brisbaneite: a tale of audience deception?

No it’s not the new Aussie flick … but for those who like interesting numbers (really interesting) … keep reading, there’s some doozies below.

The digital media world is certainly a bit exciting right now – with all the debate and discussion around online measurement and trying to work out a standard set of guidelines around this.

It seems like the brains at the IAB, MFA and ABA are taking the issue seriously – seriously enough to meet regularly and seriously enough to reportedly be working on a standard to present to interested parties for their acceptance.

Last week I made some comment around the issue – https://talkingdigital.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/looks-like-some-progress-is-being-made-on-the-abas-web-audit-maybe/ – and also asked the parties involved to address a few other areas of interest. As someone who works on the agency side, in the interests of our advertising clients, there are elements of the current measurement system that really frustrate me.

Anyway, my main points I wanted some movement on were …

– to stop auto-play on video
– split out traffic numbers by section (ie articles, index pages, slideshows etc)
– more split metrics around die-hard, regular and passer by/infrequent users
– less clutter
reporting by location

Alexx Cass of the ABA commented that on Market Intelligence, state based reporting is actually available.

Great! This is a big development, and one that should be commended. Nielsen offering this is extremely helpful for agencies and advertisers … however I’m not sure just how many are using it to work out where a sites audience comes from.

For the past 3 or so years I’ve always wondered how many users of a state based masthead (ie like the Herald Sun) came from the state they were based in.

After all, if I buy an ad in the Herald Sun print edition … I can be relatively confident 95+% of the audience reading the paper are in Victoria. For a state based advertiser this is pretty important. The same rule would  apply for The Courier Mail, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald.

Does the same ring true for their online counterparts? After all, they are clearly positioned as state based mastheads and most have local sales teams selling direct to local only clients.

Well, thanks to Nielsen’s new geo targeting … let’s have a look at the main state mastheads and their total AU audience … and their total audience in the state they’re based in. Keep in mind these are January numbers to date … ie 1 January to 28 January and the figures are rounded. (I have the original xls output for anyone who wants the source)

Now another thing to note is this is the % of Australian users based in the home state … not the % of TOTAL users. News sites have a lot of international users too, and many publishers serve Australian ads to these international users despite it being completely irrelevant.

Perth Now – www.perthnow.com.au
Total AU users = 822,000
Total users in WA = 383,000
% of AU users based in home state = 47%

WA Today – www.watoday.com.au
Total AU users = 487,000
Total users in WA = 164,000
% of AU users based in home state = 34%

West Australian – www.thewest.com.au
Total AU users = 57,000 (figure feels wrong but this is what MI was reporting)
Total users in WA = 37,000
% of AU users based in home state = 65%

Adelaide Now – www.adelaidenow.com.au
Total AU users = 1.02m
Total users in SA = 442,000
% of AU users based in home state = 43%

Herald Sun – www.heraldsun.com.au
Total AU users = 2.6m
Total users in VIC = 1.4m
% of AU users based in home state = 54%

The Age – www.theage.com.au
Total AU users = 3.17m
Total users in VIC = 1.7m
% of AU users based in home state = 54%

SMH – www.smh.com.au
Total AU users = 4.9m
Total users in NSW = 3.2m
% of AU users based in home state = 65%

The Daily Telegraph – www.dailytelegraph.com.au
Total AU users = 1.9m
Total users in NSW = 1.1m
% of AU users based in home state = 58%

Brisbane Times – www.brisbanetimes.com.au
Total AU users = 730,000
Total users in QLD = 230,000
% of AU users based in home state = 32%

The Courier Mail – www.couriermail.com.au
Total AU users = 1.38m
Total users in QLD = 580,000
% of AU users based in home state = 42%

Well … not exactly the best numbers. Fairfax Digital scores two  shockers … both the Brisbane Times and WA Today have less than 40% of their audience based in their home state. Perth Now, The Courier Mail and Adelaide Now (all from News Digital Media) both tell a bad story too … with less than 50% of their users based in their home state.

In fact, the ONLY papers (aside The West Oz) that have more than 1/2 their users from the states they are based in are from Sydney or Melbourne – ie the states with the most Internet users.

Now, I’m no analyst … but how come these Perth/Adelaide/Brisbane based titles have SO MANY USERS not in the states they claim to represent. Why are people from Melbourne and Sydney going to these sites? Are they interested in getting a different states opinion on the news … or are the networks pushing people from site to site to try and build topline unique browser numbers?

Surely not – wouldn’t this take away from the product they’re selling the market? Wouldn’t doing that just dilute the offering and mislead advertisers?

Imagine this was the case for newspapers … ie, more than half the readers of The Advertiser lived outside of SA. No one would tolerate it. Sure, I know the Internet is different to a print product in terms of distribution … but still the numbers are a concern.


12 responses to “A Sydneysider dressed as a Brisbaneite: a tale of audience deception?

  1. Hey Ben,

    One possibility is that the “interstate” traffic is mainly being delivered via organic search? They are the less frequent, one-off visitors who were searching for a specific topic, found the article and then bounced right off.

    If that’s the case, the numbers above will give you a pretty good idea of visitor loyalty for these properties and intuitively it kind of makes sense, what do you think?


  2. I’m not sure if it’s all that nefarious … here in the UK there’s only one newspaper site that has more than 50% traffic from the UK! guardian.co.uk for instance has 37m uniques, with only about 12m from the UK. This is obviously a big concern if you’re serving UK ad impressions to them, but the sites are pretty transparent about this and it actually is reported in the audited ABCe certificate. That’s the key, as I’m sure you’d agree.

    The traffic from other states/countries typically comes from search engines, and at the end of the day there’s little rationale for sites to try limit their visibility to interstate/overseas users, nor is their much rationale for them to actually chase them. If people are interested in the content, they’ll click, no matter where it comes from.

    For instance, I’m reading this from London. Google Analytics makes it pretty clear where your traffic comes from … in the interests of transparency, why not have a look at where your blog traffic originates? You might be surprised!

  3. I’ve noticed when I’ve been reading The Age online, sometimes when I click on an article link it takes me to the SMH or Brisbane Times.
    Being (almost) as cynical as you, I would agree they’re organising their sites like this to boost UBs.
    Seeing how slowly Brisbane Times (in particular) took to take off I’m not surprised at all they do this

  4. One more thing – in these state sites, are there other states that are particularly over represented? (eg. do Victorians spend a large amount of time on Adelaide Now, Brisbanites in Sydney)
    Or are the non state users pretty much all the same across the board?

  5. talkingdigital

    tommy – i have the numbers so will post it in a different post later today.

  6. talkingdigital

    hi jonathon … for the purpose of this i removed all overseas traffic … so the %’s are only of AU traffic. The rule with most AU mastheads is around 30-40% of total traffic is overseas based.

    Re where my traffic comes from. I know where it comes from – and yes some comes from overseas. But at the same time I don’t sell ads to media agencies claiming my traffic originates only from AU or a particular state. That’s the point here.

  7. Pingback: State by state – digital mastheads and their traffic origins. Pt. 2 « talking digital – Ben Shepherd

  8. Pingback: Questions raised over news sites’ local stats - mUmBRELLA

  9. The whole point of a network is to turn a unique into as many as you can. It’s called the washing machine and has been a mainstay of network strategy for a very long time.

    And for most of the national brand buyers of display space on the main pages of the these media networks it’s fine.

    Whats more amazing is that this might be a surprise to todays online buyer. Surely agencies know the properties they buy and how to deliver value to their clients.

    Perhaps agencies deceiving their clients that they know about online.

  10. talkingdigital

    hi jerry – yes i realise for many the idea of turning one unique into many is what they define as a strategy (not sure how strategic it is but anyway …). also aware that this can be prevented with IP targeting etc, and also aware for national advertisers this maybe isn’t a big issue (but for others I am sure it might be an issue).

    But many of these state based mastheads are designed to get state based advertisers specifically. That’s the issue. The other issue is why aren’t the publishers more transparent with these numbers? It’s not at all a surprise, it’s just the first time the numbers have been available so it’s good to see gut instinct backed up with proper numbers. I’ve been asking for years and getting nowhere.

    If all this is so obvious then why haven’t these numbers been pushed out before? How come the rep from site x doesn’t say – if you want to buy QLD’ers then buy the national network with a QLD IP … instead of ‘buy our QLD based masthead’? Sure – media agency folk should know this but it doesn’t mean it’s a non issue.

  11. Ben, great stats. On the autoplaying video issue, I thought I’d plug a script I wrote which fixes the issue in Firefox: Remove Fairfax autoplay video links.

  12. Pingback: State by State – duplication across masthead titles « talking digital – Ben Shepherd

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