INTERACTIVE: How successful use of the Internet helped MediaTel come into its own - CASE STUDY/MEDIATEL/MediaTel has proved that subscribers are prepared to pay for online services, Gordon MacMillan reports

Received wisdom says that subscription-based services don’t work on the World Wide Web. Publishing companies that offer online versions of their titles, for example, nearly all do so free of charge, mainly because they believe people will not pay for these kind of services.

Received wisdom says that subscription-based services don’t work on

the World Wide Web. Publishing companies that offer online versions of

their titles, for example, nearly all do so free of charge, mainly

because they believe people will not pay for these kind of services.



MediaTel, the media database company, is bucking the trend. The

operation moved its subscription-based service on to the World Wide Web

back in August 1995 and its site remains one of the few to charge for

much of its content.



The MediaTel site offers a profusion of industry-standard data on

television, press, outdoor and radio. This includes viewing and

listening figures, readership and circulation trends, audience

information and UK and European cable and satellite data organised by

channel and country.



The basic aim of MediaTel, according to its managing director, Derek

Jones, has always been to give media planners information that can

either be slipped simply into client presentations and media plans, or

can help with research.



MediaTel had been available as a text-based, online service since the

80s but its decision to go live on the Web proved a catalyst. The

Internet is where the service seems to have come into its own.



Doreen Gignan, the information director at the Network, comments: ’It is

a great improvement now that MediaTel is on the Internet. I was not so

keen on it to begin with. Now Net access is quick and it has expanded

the service quite considerably.’



Expansion was tricky before, but Web software makes adding new services

relatively fast and simple. MediaTel plans to launch four new services

in 1997, including a regional media database and a new-media

database.



This amounts to more than double anything it was able to launch before

the Web.



And, while many have found it difficult to make money on the Web,

MediaTel claims the medium has been good for business. Jones says: ’It

is easier to market and sell on the Web and we are finding it easier to

attract clients.’



Indeed, MediaTel is finding it easier to market itself now than at any

time in the past, he declares.



However, MediaTel wasn’t climbing any mountains. Yes, it was one of the

first companies to offer such a service on the Web, but it has always

been subscription based. It moved to the Web as it looked, and worked,

better.



It also has the advantage of being in the business-to-business market,

where the idea of an online subscription service for business

intelligence is well established.



MediaTel currently has about 100 subscribers, each paying an annual fee

of around pounds 7,800. These include many media and advertising

agencies in the UK.



Media owners too, such as IPC and Northcliffe Newspapers, are showing a

growing interest in the service, although the Halifax Building Society

is the only client to sign up for the service since MediaTel went on to

the Web.



There are rival online services available, such as Maid, Reuters, Mintel

and Brad, but they are not on the Web and not quite as broad in their

offering.



This is not to say that the service is in any way perfect. The design

does leave something to be desired and there have been complaints that

it is not that easy to navigate. More importantly, at least one user

found data that did not agree with the source. MediaTel’s response to

this was ’whoops’.



Clearly, online data is as fallible as any other kind and may require

cross-checking - just in case.



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