Campaign Report - European Media - Surf research - German publisher Burda has an online research facility that makes the web look like a serious tool for planners. Robert Gray asks if this is the future

The internet has often been described as an anarchic medium. On that basis it would be fair to conclude that it has little potential as a planning tool. But a growing number of pan-European media planners beg to differ. They are beginning to see opportunities - beyond the countless X-Files sites and boring corporate ’brochureware’ - in mining the web for valuable research data. And the global nature of the web gives it a particular appeal to those planning international campaigns.

The internet has often been described as an anarchic medium. On

that basis it would be fair to conclude that it has little potential as

a planning tool. But a growing number of pan-European media planners beg

to differ. They are beginning to see opportunities - beyond the

countless X-Files sites and boring corporate ’brochureware’ - in mining

the web for valuable research data. And the global nature of the web

gives it a particular appeal to those planning international

campaigns.



Until recently, print media owners have put little that is of interest

to planners on their sites. The online focus has primarily been on

existing readers - albeit occasionally offering original material in

keeping with the titles’ brand values.



Last year, however, the German publisher, Burda, launched a service for

advertisers and planners interested in its weekly current affairs title,

Focus. MediaLine, as the service is known, can be found at the Focus

website (www.focus.de).Recently it has included a substantial amount of

material translated into English.



Focus itself has been a publishing phenomenon. Five years after its

launch, it is a serious challenger to the two titles that have dominated

the German weekly news market for decades, Der Spiegel and Stern.

Although third in circulation terms - with 732,000 against Der Spiegel’s

1,045,000 and Stern’s 1,115,000 - Focus claims a higher subscription

base than either of its rivals and to reach more male readers than Der

Spiegel.



MediaLine is one of the means it uses to convey its strengths to

planners and advertisers across Europe. The range of material on the

website runs from ratecard data to a socio-demographic breakdown of

readership. Some of the material has been created in conjunction with

the Dusseldorf office of CIA Medianetwork, with input from its London

headquarters.



It is interesting stuff, but is it helpful for planners?



Yes, according to MediaCom’s international media manager, Daniela

Krautsack. She would like to see some of the more detailed market

analysis that is available in the German-language part of the site

reproduced in English.



To date there are 15 different market analyses, with a new one added

monthly - but only two of these are translated into English. On the

whole, however, Krautsack is positive. ’It’s a really good asset for

people who need fast access to media information,’ she says. ’That said,

the media industry will always need human contact and we are used to

getting data quickly and easily. Burda is the first media owner to offer

that for one of its leading titles. I’d encourage other media owners to

do the same.’



’It’s useful, but you’ve got to be aware that it can be slightly biased

in favour of a publisher,’ Media Business International’s director of

international media, Adrian Smith, adds.



Focus MediaLine’s project manager, Isabel Zinecker, points out that

media planners can also access the magazine’s ’advertising database’

online.



This contains all the ads that have appeared in the printed version of

Focus since 1996, enabling users to analyse competitors’ campaigns.



Where Focus has led it is hoped others will follow, although it would be

misleading to imply that Burda is the only publisher attempting to meet

the needs of planners through the web. Two years ago, Gruner & Jahr set

up Communication Office (www.co.guj.de/services) with a view to enabling

users to access data on all its magazines. In May this year, it

introduced an English-language version of the service.



Given the full range of titles, the information on each is not as

comprehensive as MediaLine’s treatment of Focus. But it is a valuable

resource nonetheless, enabling planners to download ’magazine profiles’,

data on circulation, coverage and advertising rates as well as in-depth

’industry briefs’ tackling the current situation and future expectations

of selected markets in Germany.



’The first goal of Communication Office is to enhance communications

between us and advertisers in Germany,’ Gruner & Jahr’s director of

online advertising and marketing, Stan Sugarman, says. ’As planners

start to use electronic information to make their planning more

efficient, why should they switch to non-digital media when they want to

find something?’



Germany is leading the way in putting detailed media information on the

web. This is probably because of the way in which the internet has taken

off there. Over the past six months, there have been two million new

users of the medium, swelling the number of users to seven million.



Sugarman says he would like agencies to tell him exactly what they want

from the site and talks about a Utopian future when they will be able to

do their own tailored ’runs’ to find the information they need.



Mike Jarvis, media director of the IT-specialist agency, Banner, doubts

this will ever happen. ’Cutting its sales team off from a relationship

with advertisers would be dangerous thing from a publisher’s point of

view. Publishers can’t afford to lose the ability to sell.’



Optimedia International media manager, Mark Jones, says the internet is

proving ever more useful for finding background material - especially,

for obvious reasons, when planning campaigns for technology clients.

’The internet doesn’t shut,’ he says, ’and there’s a lot of up-to-date

information out there. Which is handy if you need stuff at odd times

like 7am or 10pm.’



Carat International’s head of planning, Jane Turner, says the net was a

godsend when she needed information on a title in Hong Kong. She adds,

though, that her use of the net for planning research tends to be for

’non-core’ media. Arguably this is because many publishers - and indeed

traditional broadcast media owners - have yet to realise the full

potential of their websites. ’A lot of publishers’ websites don’t ever

change,’ Motive’s international planner, Louise Lenzi, says. ’They don’t

update enough.’



The internet will never fully replace human dialogue in the planning

process, nor should it. But the consensus among international media

planners is that the creation of at least one site of the breadth and

quality of Focus MediaLine in each important European market would be a

welcome addition to extant research sources.



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