Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Media monitoring is not about technology infrastructure

PR Newser on Tuesday morning had an odd guest post, "The Evolution of Media Monitoring," by Sean Morgan, CEO of Critical Media, which provides the Critical Mention monitoring product, a competitor, until last week, of VMS until VMS announced its bankruptcy filing. I do not know much about why VMS owners decided to fold. From the little I do know, I don't much credit Morgan's perspective. My own experience leads me to believe that Morgan is mostly wrong about his conclusion: "At the end of the day it all comes back to the fact that the only media monitoring companies that will survive are the ones whose core business is as a technology infrastructure company. Otherwise, as media continues to morph and change, more and more companies will be left behind."

The core business of a monitoring service (its value proposition) isn't technology infrastructure; as sophisticated as the technology must be, it's only incidental. The core business of a monitoring service has to be providing insights into the communications environment and answers to clients' questions. Thoughtful marketers and media planners acknowledge that "all the media" is just Noise. They want to know 1) about the Media that Matters (individually identified to the particular need and occasion) and 2) the pertinent memes being conveyed that have an effect on the value of the marketers' product/proposition.

In my work over the past several years, I have met with most of the media monitoring companies, large and small, emerging and established. The technology infrastructure, even as it grows more complex and rich, is also at the same time inclining toward commodity status; and the pressure is for costs to come down. The vast majority of my PR clients remain unimpressed by media monitoring technology (rightly or wrongly); they buy a company's product grudgingly (because the CMO or a procurement officer insists). I do not know of one client who holds on to their monitoring company and service out of loyalty to its technology infrastructure. To the small degree there is loyalty to monitoring companies, it is to those that provide insight, perspective, thought, and relevance to the client's purpose. The monitoring companies' AI, on its own, hasn't come near to providing that kind of relevance yet.

The shuttering of VMS may portend more shake-ups in the media/social media monitoring industry. But technology infrastructure will only be a supporting player in that shake-up. I'll go further -- monitoring itself is only a supporting player. The shake-up in the PR and the monitoring industry is here, because our clients are organizations that want to participate effectively in the marketplace of products and issues. They want the edge for success that emerges only from timely, original insights and distinctively articulated ideas. They don't want "counting up lots of media stuff," and at the end of the day they really don't care about dashboards or any other front- or back-end of the technology infrastructure. On top of it all, these clients, like all of us, want to pay as little as possible for technology.

Clients do, however, consistently pay a premium for insight and ideas. The media analytics companies that will survive will be the ones whose core business is finding pertinence and significance. As media evolves, companies that only have technology to sell will be left behind.