Forecast: Media Execs Look to Metrics In 2007

Despite the big gains made by the Internet in 2006, execs representing television, radio and magazines were optimistic about prospects next year. They believe each medium will benefit from more accurate measurement that gives due credit for its role in driving consumer behavior. Overall, 2007 will resemble 2006, with the Internet continuing its meteoric growth and the "traditional" media returning flat or small incremental growth.

Geoff Ramsey, the CEO of eMarketer, an independent media-research firm, sketched out the big picture for 2007, predicting 3.7 percent overall growth in media spending. Within that, Ramsey said, the Internet will grow 26.8 percent to top $15.9 billion. "That's more than consumers spend on movies, and more than the Yellow Pages," Ramsey reminded the audience at Media magazine's Forecast 2007 Conference.

The picture for cable TV is less rosy, according to Sean Cunningham, the president of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB), who predicted that cable revenues would be "flat, slightly up, maybe slightly down." Cunningham noted the growing resistance of marketers to upfront buying in 2006, conceding: "There's slightly less money being laid down." Although some of this money may be going to new platforms operated by cable broadcasters, including Web portals, Cunningham said it worked "in the buyers' interests to hold their cards a little closer to their chests."

Radio's prospects are about the same as cable TV, said Jeff Haley, the incoming president and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), who pegged 2007 revenue as "flat to up, maybe slightly up." But Haley was quick to note that radio could benefit from increased accountability and ratings transparency provided by Arbitron's new Portable People Meter (PPM), a passive electronic measurement device. One-third of broadcasters have already signed up for PPM results, Haley said, predicting industry-wide electronic measurement by the end of 2007.

Similarly, Cunningham looked to more accurate measurements as a likely source of revenue growth for cable TV--saying new technologies for verifying ad placement, as well as dynamic insertion of ads in digital broadcasts, will draw more money into the medium. With Haley, Cunningham urged media to cooperate to "truly integrate our media plans," using these more refined metrics. "I'd love to get credit for our blows of the hammer" in consumer persuasion, Cunningham said. "Only the last two blows leading to purchase get credit right now. But what about the first nine blows? That's where we are."

This integration of media measurement and planning need not bring media into conflict, concluded Dom Rossi, a senior advisor to the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA). Indeed, Rossi says it would drive recognition that different media function in different ways--higher or lower on the "purchase funnel," the individual consumer's decision process. That's why Rossi was optimistic for magazines in 2007, touting their ability to draw consumers into a slower, highly engaged experience in a frenetic media environment.

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