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