The World: More news is good news for world media brands

It's not just the web, Europe's highest earners are increasing their consumption of media across the board.

Members of Europe's elite demographic do things differently - we've always known that. It's a commonly understood assumption that they don't, for instance, watch as much television as mere mortals do. And indeed, a superficial glance at the European Media and Marketing Survey, produced by the Dutch market research company Interview NSS, might bear that out.

It's not just that they don't watch TV - it's the realisation that this group is actually less likely to own a TV set than any other demographic group. Only 97.7 per cent on average own up to possessing a box; although it has to be said that this average figure is pulled down by France, where an astonishingly low 95.8 per cent of the elite say that they have a TV.

So, we'd expect other facets of the EMS to bear out our prejudices about this eccentric bunch of top earners, with their high culture pretensions and their taste for dry and opaque reading matter. But the picture isn't that simple. The further you drill down into these figures, the more surprises you're likely to find - and TV is by no means the poor relation these days.

The EMS survey is published twice a year - its winter 2006 figures are just out - and aims to provide a representative sample of the main income earners in the top 20 per cent of households, defined by household income, in 16 European countries. The income threshold varies from market to market: the highest being Denmark on EUR84,500; the lowest is Portugal, on EUR24,000. The UK cut-off point is £37,500 (equivalent to EUR54,000). This income definition delivers a universe of about 40 million, or 13 per cent of Europe's adults.

Within this, the sample is boosted among top managers, high-income earners and frequent flyers, allowing EMS to produce a report, called EMS Select, on the top 3 per cent of Europe's earners.

But even at the 13 per cent threshold, we're still talking about an elite - so, TV viewing habits aside, one thing we'd surely expect the survey to confirm is the growing importance of the internet as a source of business information. Indeed, when asked where they tend to go to first for news and current affairs, 23.2 per cent say the internet, up from 19.3 per cent.

Tellingly, however, this doesn't seem to have impacted on the actual readership figures for the main international newspapers and magazines, such as the Financial Times, The Economist, Time and Newsweek. For publishers, that's the most important message to be taken from this survey.

In fact, Alan Dunachie, the director of operations at The Economist, asserts what these figures show is a welcome rise across the board for international media. All magazines and newspapers, for instance, are up in the "ever read" category, and most are up in average issue readership. "What we're seeing here is a greater need to understand international issues. (With security fears abating,) people are travelling again, especially business travellers - and there is particular interest in India and China," Dunachie adds.

Conversely, there are more and more people in emerging markets looking to the West and able to read English. He adds: "I think it's acknowledged that in business, people who can think outside their own time zone are going to do better than those who can't or don't."

And, of course, "all international media" includes TV, too - and there are some heartening figures here for the major international brands: entertainment channels such as Discovery; sports brands such as Eurosport; and the international news specialists such as BBC World, Euronews, Bloomberg, CNBC and CNN.

It's a phenomenon being driven by out-of-home viewing, not least in hotel rooms. Jeremy Nye, the head of research and planning at BBC World, says the figures show an increasing appetite for international TV news, especially if it has a European flavour. He explains: "I think that might be a reflection of the greater availability of a greater number of channels in, for example, hotels. But we know we're being watched more in the workplace, too. I think the strong performance of channels such as Euronews and BBC World is to do with brand values. There's a higher level of trust among the audience."

For some planners, though, the increases in media consumption recorded by EMS may turn out to be a double-edged sword. Pia Ambrose, an account manager, global solutions, at Mediadge:cia, says: "One of the key findings is that people are working longer hours. So how, you have to ask, is media consumption going up? I think the answer has to be that more elite Europeans are multi-tasking when it comes to media consumption - in particular, they are watching TV and using the internet at the same time. This means that attention is fragmented and partial. So the name of the game isn't reach any more - it's about finding ways to turn partial attention into full attention. We are after engagement these days, not simply exposure."

And, as always, the winners will be those who see this as an opportunity rather than a threat. The subtext to be taken from EMS, argues Ambrose, is that the future must be about coming up with engaging content developed through cross-media partnerships - partnerships that will be beneficial from a consumer, a media owner and a brand owner point of view.

She concludes: "That's why we applaud initiatives such as The Wall Street Journal's, where they have people dedicated to creating mocks-ups for ideas that can integrate their on- and offline offering. Or CNBC, who, when the sales people come to see you, bring producers with them. It adds credibility to what they can offer. I think the EMS research shows that this sort of thing has to be the way forward."