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November 16, 2022 // Brent Diggins  //       //  Opinion

The Shocking Data Difference in Earned Media Monitoring Platforms and How it Impacts the Industry

Media monitoring platforms bring more data to our fingertips than ever. It should be a boon for us all, right?  

Instead, many in the industry continually point to struggles with both data and media monitoring platforms, and data disparity is one of the root causes.  

Let’s run through what happens, why it exists, how it impacts the industry and what you can do about it.  

What is data disparity in earned media monitoring platforms? 

  • Data disparity is the fundamental reality that communications data is inconsistent, not accessible to all, and often inaccurate or incomplete (in raw form).  
  • So, what does this look like in the real world? With access to multiple platforms, we regularly run cross-platform diagnostic tests for a variety of reasons. Below is a recent output for a global brand across five well-known media monitoring platforms using consistent parameters: 
Platform Total Volume Unique Outlets Shared Headlines Percent Shared Unshared Headlines Percent Unshared
Platform 1 45,181 7,501 9,627 21% 35,554 79%
Platform 2 64,069 9,979 6,782 11% 57,287 89%
Platform 3 28,620 4,341 8,171 29% 20,449 71%
Platform 4 75,604 6,784 9,014 12% 66,590 88%
Platform 5 18,538 3,758 6,185 33% 12,353 67%
  • You’ll note major differences in EVERY. SINGLE. CATEGORY.  
  • In simple volume (media mentions), there is more than 300% difference between the highest volume platform (Platform 4) and lowest volume platform (Platform 5).  
  • In unique outlets (the number of unique outlets that make up the total volume), there is a 165% difference between the highest volume platform (platform 2) and the lowest volume platform (platform 5). 

Why does data discrepancy in earned media monitoring platforms exist? 

  • This explanation could be a few chapters in a book. But simply, it exists due to a confluence of factors, including backend data sources, proprietary technology, false positives and licensing/publishing restrictions that media monitoring companies have in place.  
  • Media monitoring platforms sometimes change these levers, often without notice, so a similar variable data pull from the same platform can be different at different points in time.  

How is it negatively impacting the industry?  

  • Trust: One of the main currencies in the service business is trust. When trust erodes, it is hard to get back. So, let’s take a common use case -- an organization changes media monitoring partners. Due to the industry disparity, a chief communications officer now must explain why all the benchmarks, data and results previously reported are changed. This is not an ideal position and will raise trust red flags.  
  • Credibility: The communications industry already has several challenges with earned media measurement. Consistently changing numbers further erodes credibility that may already stand on shaky legs in some organizations.  
  • Outcomes: In our example, we saw differences of 300% in earned media volume data. That is a significant business-changing issue. People can lose jobs or agencies can be fired over those differences in outcomes. 
  • Hinderance of Predictive Analytics: Predictive models are more accurate when they are built off larger, reliable datasets. Media data's limited scope and reliability make it more difficult to build accurate predictive models to help set goals/benchmarks and show us where the business is going. 
  • Data-Driven Strategy/Insights: Communications strategy is often driven by insights surfaced in outputs like media audits. A media audit on one platform can produce wildly different insights when the data is so inconsistent.  
  • Benchmarking: As previously mentioned, benchmarking, which is often attached to objectives can be skewed if platforms are changed.  

What can I do about it?  

  • Be Cognizant of How Communications Data Works: You don’t need to be an expert on the ins and outs. But a fundamental understanding of the issue, hopefully delivered by this blog, can help you anticipate and navigate this situation.  
  • Test Media Monitoring Platforms Before Buying: Media monitoring platforms perform differently for different organizations. Ask for actual data about your organization before buying a system or migrating to a new system.  
  • Avoid Analysis Paralysis: It's easy to get hung up on auditing, scrubbing and analyzing the data to produce bulletproof insights/recommendations and forget about the goal -- make a decision to move the business forward. Media data is most powerful for developing business strategies when it is looked at directionally, which does not require 100% completeness. If you can spend 20% of the effort to answer 80% of the questions, that is a win. 
  • Once Chosen, Remain Consistent: Once you have selected a media monitoring platform, remain consistent in its use. This may include using agreed-upon parameters and process. Some large organizations will use different media monitoring platforms, leading to further internal inconsistency, so aligning internally also pulls down potential future roadblocks.  
  •  Rely on Expertise: Media monitoring platforms have become more complex. Lean on experts who use or review them regularly to give you the best consultation.  

The data disparity issue is real, must be recognized at all levels, and likely won’t subside as media monitoring companies pursue their own visions and run their unique businesses.  

Brent is a Partner and the Managing Director of Allison+Partners’ Performance+Intelligence team, which includes the agency’s analytics, data science, insights and research functions. Performance+Intelligence is a dedicated team of experts that collects and deciphers data to help organizations spot strategic opportunities, take smart risks and show clear outcomes. 

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