In the old days (more than 10 years ago), everything a planner needed to know was on paper. Competitive books filled a room, Nielsen’s PocketPiece was the source of national ratings and planners kept a reference notebook that was updated annually by the research department.
Today all of this has been replaced by information delivered electronically, mainly on the Internet. Of course, a strategic question like “How much is enough?” can never be answered by a simple database. But there is a world of mostly unprotected information that planners can draw on when the need arises.
Following is my list of top media Web sites, updated from “Advertising Media Planning,” which I wrote with Jack Sissors.
Nielsen Media Research (nielsenmedia.com)-The public site contains basic information about the meaning of TV ratings and how they are produced, FAQs and all of Nielsen’s press releases, including those regarding the launch of the Local People Meter. Useful data includes a list of designated market area household populations and rank, sweeps dates and this week’s top-rated programs. Nielsen clients will find a wealth of password-protected supporting data that replaces most of the hard-copy reports for national, spot, Hispanic, sports marketing and other services.
Television Bureau of Advertising (tvb.org)-The TVB is the trade association of America’s broadcast television industry. In exchange for free registration, Research Central provides a broad range of information about the television industry, viewing trends, advertising expenditures in all media (not just TV) and useful facts about the television market. Because local stations support the TVB, there is only limited coverage of national television.
TelevisionWeek (tvweek.com)-TVWeek’s Media Planning feature can be found online.
Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (onetvworld.org)-Since CAB exists to promote cable, the Web site emphasizes its strengths in comparison with broadcast TV and other media. Of additional use to planners are the program schedules, audience profiles, logos (handy for presentations) and other material on 83 advertiser-supported cable networks. The CAB Research section is particularly valuable.
Arbitron (arbitron.com)-This service is the primary source of audiences for spot and network radio. The Web site provides up-to-date top-line information about the medium, market populations and a variety of downloadable reports, including a highly detailed county-level map of Arbitron Radio Metros. “Radio Today” in the Top Downloads section offers an overview of the medium as well as general market, black, Hispanic and Puerto Rican listening habits.
Radio Advertising Bureau (rabmarketing.com)-RAB is a trade association that exists to promote radio as an advertising medium. In exchange for no-charge registration, the RAB Research section offers the downloadable “Marketing Guide and Fact Book” that has extensive information on radio listening habits and strengths of the medium compared with television and print. The Instant Backgrounds section gives a business summary of more than 160 products and services.
MRI+ (mriplus.com)-In exchange for free registration, this Mediamark Research site offers a massive amount of information. It has general magazine rates, ABC circulation data (top-line for all, detailed for ABC subscribers), readership of MRI-measured magazines, editorial calendars and the promotional media kit for more than 6,000 consumer magazines and trade publications. A spreadsheet helps planners develop a schedule that can be exported to Excel. A link to the MRI Reporter gives top-line demographic information on hundreds of products and services. MRI+ is one of the most useful media planning sites on the Internet.
Magazine Publishers of America (magazine.org)-The Web site of the MPA provides a wealth of free information about the magazine industry and how people read magazines. Because it is an industry group it does not have, however, data on individual titles that might be used to sell one versus another. The Find Research section in the 2004-05 Magazine Handbook provides especially useful information on the effect of positioning, ad size and other factors. The section also has a searchable index of more than 1,000 abstracts of research studies, covering all media, from 1950 to the present. Planners should check out the site’s numerous case histories and in-depth market profiles.
BPA Worldwide (bpaww.com)-BPA audits thousands of business and consumer magazines, databases and other services in more than 20 countries. Its entire library of reports is available in exchange for no-charge registration at its Web site. In addition to circulation these reports provide a detailed professional profile of business publication readers.
ClickZ Network (clickz.com)-This no-charge Web site offers a wide-ranging searchable database of current and historical articles relating to the Internet. The Stats/Stats Toolbox section provides up-to-date statistics on Internet usage, traffic, connection speed, e-commerce, demographics, advertising and other more specialized aspects of the medium compiled from dozens of sources.
Advertising Media Internet Center (amic.com)-This site is the starting point for media planners. In exchange for no-charge registration, it provides well-organized links to all the major media research sources, a glossary of media terminology and a searchable 10-year archive of advice from the Media Guru.
MediaPost (mediapost.com)-offers an exceptionally complete set of links to media and advertising Web sites. In exchange for free registration, Mediapost archives provide a searchable database of more than 3,000 media- and advertising-related articles. (Editor’s note: Joe Mandese, who regularly contributes to this page, is editor in chief of MediaPost.)
Ephron on Media (ephrononmedia.com)-Erwin Ephron is a widely known and respected consultant to the advertising industry. In exchange for no-charge registration, his Web site offers a searchable compendium of think pieces he has written on virtually every media subject.
Roger Baron is senior VP, media research director, for Foote Cone & Belding.