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
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
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
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’
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
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
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.