Monday, March 27, 2006

What's the Meaning of 'Engagement'?

One of the most-used media buzzwords in the last year has been "engagement." It is also one of the least understood because it is used in different ways by people in different parts of the media. One report notes that "the creation of a 'one size fits all,' universal definition of engagement is unlikely."

Some researchers correlate engagement with time spent in an activity as comScore Media Matrix did in a report on online activity. Other research couples time spent with measures of involvement or relevance.

For advertising professionals, the fragmentation of the media audience, consumer-generated media and the innovation of search marketing are three of the trends spurring them to look for alternatives to measures such as gross rating points.

One definition: "Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context," said Joe Plummer, the chief research officer of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), at the group's annual conference last week. ARF will work to develop quantifiable measures of engagement. (The New York Times and's MediaWorks had worthwhile stories on the ARF conference.)

One of the most valuable reports on engagement is by the Magazine Publishers of America, which developed a guide combining 35 research studies. The report features studies dealing with both advertising and news content. Some key points from their news release:

  • Engagement is complex because a variety of exposure and relationship factors affect engagement, making simplified rankings misleading.
  • Engagement with a medium often differs from engagement with advertising.
  • Engagement factors vary by demographic segment, by medium and by genres within media.

The full document with references for the 35 reports cited is available.

Another approach to user engagement was used by Northwestern's Media Management Center in a 2005 study with the Online Publishers Association. Researchers compiled 154 descriptive statements such as "This site really stimulates my curiosity" into an online questionnaire. Then, based on responses from 2,215, researchers factored the statements into 22 experiences, or dimensions of engagement.

Newspaper Business: The Changes Keep Coming

The newspaper business has been prominently in the news recently, especially on the business pages and in communities nationwide with a paper published by Knight Ridder. Most readers are familiar with the basic story: McClatchy buys Knight Ridder in a $4.5-billion deal, then announces it will sell 12 of the papers that don’t fit McClatchy’s high-growth strategy.

In Northeast Ohio we were surprised with the news that John Knight’s home paper, the Akron Beacon Journal, is one of the papers to be sold. In another twist, Beacon Journal columnist Diane Evans and former editor (and Kent State journalism professional-in-residence) Jan Leach were reported by Crain’s Cleveland Business to be among a group developing an independent news/information Web site. Evans said the site is expected to be running by the end of the year.

In a report from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, three business professors and others produced an interesting analysis of the newspaper business after the sale was announced. They emphasized the newspaper business--and the Knight Ridder papers--are profitable, but revenues are basically flat, the sign of a stale industry. Much of the data is taken from The State of the News Media Report 2006: An Annual Report on American Journalism, which was cited in the March 15 Media Mindsets blog.

Looking toward the future, Business Week, in an article titled Newspapers: From Print to Pixels, assessed how some of the major U.S. newspapers are doing in developing a Web presence. The magazine reports newspapers must go beyond the "online newspaper" approach and they must step up their pace of innovation. The story's conclusion: The newspaper business faces life-altering changes, but it can survive them."

The changing newspaper business was also the focus of a Wall Street Journal story, which stressed newspapers need to adopt new tactics for attracting young readers and small advertisers in particular. Niche publications, some of which are free weekly publications, carry lower-priced advertising, reflecting their smaller circulation. The story reports Gannett has nearly 1,000 such publications, up from about 200 in 2000. Some newspapers also are making significant changes in classified advertising, including offering free classifieds for individuals.

'Generation Wireless'

An story reports a majority, 57%, of teens aged 13-17 have a cellphone Young adults, aged 18-24, are more likely to snap cellphone pictures and buy ringtones, according to data from M:Metrics, but the younger users are the biggest enthusiasts for most wireless content and features such as messaging, game downloads, photo services and sports and entertainment news. Of course, only 18% on the 13-17 year olds are paying for their own
cell services.

--Joe Harper


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