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A simplified view of a very complex world: the value of the PRC’s Lockdown Adspend & Audience Tracker

Apr 12, 2021

The Publisher Research Council’s Lockdown Adspend & Audience Tracker succinctly reports on critical adspend and audience information during COVID-19. It is another example of the innovation to which the PRC has committed itself.

It is not easy to produce “a simplified view of a very complex world”, remarks Chris Botha, Group Managing Director of Park Advertising, of the PRC’s Lockdown Adspend & Audience Tracker. He compliments them for managing “to distil many complex research pieces, PR release information and data sources into a concise valuable view that tells one story.”

Key trends quickly

Echoing these sentiments, Karen Phelan, AMF Board and PRC Research Committee mMember, adds “being able to provide the industry with a quick sense check of what’s happening is invaluable,” especially in an industry plagued by information overload. She believes the report empowers publishers as well as media agencies and clients to pick up key trends quickly.

Co-founder of The Abstract Club and PRC Research Committee Member, Karen Dyke confirms that the report was “extremely well received” by the Abstract Club membership. Using the tracker, this network of freelance media and marketing consultants were able “to provide their clients with a thorough overview of what has been happening during lockdown. Category shifts, audience changes and an understanding of how adspend is recovering at an individual media channel level is critical information for a broad understanding of both the market and the media landscape.”

Dyke sees it as another step in the innovative industry-first approach, which has characterised the PRC since its establishment. She cites the prior examples of PAMS 2017, a currency measuring expanded platform usage and the fusion of Nielsen CPS with PAMS 2019.

Adspend plummets; audiences boom

The initial report, covering the first 6 months of the year, demonstrated the immediate plummet in overall adspend from 27th March 2020. The first half of the year posted an overall decline of 14%, but there were significant troughs e.g. May plunged by 39%.

By contrast, the tracked audiences boomed due to the stay-at-home orders and the need for information in a time of crisis. TV viewership rose by 23% in April and digital news site audiences spiked in the first week of lockdown, up by 91% on the pre COVID-19 period.

Green shoots

The latest release covers the full year and suggests there are some green shoots emerging. Whilst total adspend for 2020 was 8% below 2019, the last quarter of 2020 increased by 12%, setting a positive note for 2021. TV audiences almost recovered to 2019 levels in December after a benighted third quarter. Digital news sites monthly and daily audiences ended the year about 33% ahead of pre-Covid February, with page views up 13%.

Publishers strengths

Dyke unpacks this further by pointing out that “the IAB’s Narratiive report shows the biggest websites in the country are owned by previously print-only houses.” In her view, “it speaks volumes to the publishers’ ability to innovate under pressure.” She argues that because traditional print was the first media channel to go through the shift in how users access content, “they built a really good understanding of what delivering content through different platforms means, for the creators and the users of the content”.

Phelan remarks that a true testament to consumers’ relationship with publisher brands is that readers continue to pay for their papers, either through the retail cover price or paper and digital subscriptions. She underlines that undivided attention and trust in quality journalism are key strengths of print both in the digital realm and with paper versions.

To obtain the latest Lockdown Adspend & Audience Tracker, click here.

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Bureaux Contacts

PAMS data is available from the following media software bureaux:

Jennifer Daniel

Nielsen Clear Decisions
Hank Bento

Andrew Fulton

Hilary Crowther

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