The release today of research from the recently established industry body The Newspaper Works invites scepticism because, not surprisingly, it finds that newspapers are very, very good.
This story by Jane Schulze in The Australian today aids the industry spin with its headline “Newspapers reclaim agenda-setting mantle” and the opening paragraph:
Australia’s newspaper industry will position itself as the most trusted media and the one with the greatest attention of its users, following the release of ground-breaking research.
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? (The Oz also provided us with a free kick by stuffing up the way they ran Schulze’s report. In the print edition, a blurb points to the article on page 34 – but there is nothing there. Schulze’s piece appears on page one of the business section – the same page as the blurb. Please, guys, don’t make it so easy to take the p-ss.)
So what about this “groundbreaking” research? (Sadly not available online).
It emerges that it comprised an online survey of 1010 people, plus eight focus groups and just four in-depth interviews, all conducted in July last year.
The survey, it seems, was done via one of the increasingly common internet based market research panels to which participants are recruited with the promise of gifts and giveaways. (If you use the internet much at all, particularly Facebook and the like, you have probably seen the recruitment ads.)
The result is a highly art-produced booklet being distributed to those who buy and advise on buying media space. And, what a surprise, it is all good news. Newspapers are absorbing, dynamic and reputable.
When it comes to the hard data, the report claims that 41% of readers “respect” newspapers both in print and online more than other media.
An astonishing 59% of survey respondents claim to have visited a website of a product or service after seeing a newspaper ad. Can this be believed?
The exact questions the survey participants were asked is not clear from the report, though one assumes participants were asked to agree or disagree to statements such as “are the ads in newspapers generally believable?”. And it is fair to assume we are only being told about favourable results.
So, is this research any good? Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy says it is interesting, and the first that has attempted to give some insight into how newspapers’ websites interact with the print editions. But he is puzzled by the most novel claims in the report — that readers who find a newspaper report interesting will then go online to the news site to get more information. This is strange, since newspapers still don’t provide much more information online than is in the printed edition.
So, all good news for newspapers. As you would expect. And given they are so reliable and respected, we can trust them to shun their own spin.