Cross-Media Bears Fruit

The power of the Web is strong--especially when combined with other media. That's what the Online Publishers Association found in an extensive analysis of the Middletown Media Studies, the observational study conducted by Ball State University Center For Media Design. OPA President Pam Horan discussed the group's research, dubbed  "A Day In The Life," with Online Publishing Insider.

Online Publishing Insider: Why did you decide to fund an analysis of the BallState study?

Horan: Every year OPA does a major study. [This year] we wanted to understand the role of the Web -- which in such a short time has achieved a reach of more than 60 percent, close to that of radio -- in the daily lives of consumers. We wanted to dig into the role of the Web when combining unique audiences with other media, to demonstrate the benefits of a cross-media buy.

Obviously many OPA members have both offline and online properties, so we thought this would be a fitting subject.



We used observational research, one of the most authentic ways to understand what consumers are doing. "A Day In The Life" was very exact in its measurements. Ball State did observation of 350 adults in Muncie and Indianapolis in 2005,  tracking 80 percent of the waking day and recording media consumption and life activities every 15 seconds.

OPI: What did you find was the value of combining media? How can online publishers use the results of this research?

Horan: It's significant. We found that in the case of TV, for example, which has a reach of 41 percent to 91 percent depending on daypart, adding the Web can raise reach by up to 23 percentage points. Combining the Web with magazines  paid off even more, at least doubling or in some cases quadrupling the reach; for example, changing a 31 percent reach for magazines in the evening hours to a 72 percent reach.

We really see opportunities for our OPA membership, which has many members--like Rodale, Conde Nast and Meredith--that are building very successful cross-media programs for their advertisers, leveraging their magazine properties as well as their Web sites. TV companies like CBS are also building their online platform as a combined purchase that can extend the reach further for advertisers. And more and more of our newspaper members are also doing cross-media, connecting with different communities depending on whom they want to reach--the automotive or luxury goods marketplace, for example.

Another interesting aspect of the study is the idea of how offline is driving online. Someone who's watching ABC's "Lost" gets the recommendation that viewers go to the show's Web site to view additional information about those stranded on the island and the chance to participate in games. It's a real synergy that we're finally seeing occur, and now we've got some data points to illustrate it.

 OPI: Any other significant findings?

Horan: When we first saw the research, we were able to look at a breakdown according to age and gender, and we found that the Web is consistent in its appeal across all groups--in sharp contrast to some lingering impressions of the Web as the domain only of young men. The appeal of the Web is far more homogeneous--the mark of a true mass medium.

Of course television ranks No. 1 in home reach for all age/gender groups--but the Web is the only medium to rank No. 1 or No. 2 at both home and work (where it's No. 1).

Which ultimately brings up the whole idea of looking at, where is the spending? If you look at average spending for the Internet versus other media, there certainly is a disconnect. There's an opportunity for advertisers to really be where the consumer is, and that's online.

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