When you’ve been in a particular industry for ages, you begin to assume the whole world speaks that industry’s language and understands how it works. When chatting with clients and PR professionals, we are often surprised at the varying levels of awareness around broadcast media monitoring services options and the strengths and weaknesses of each. So we created this comparison to help better inform you about those options and provide information that will be valuable in helping you consider how to best use broadcast monitoring for your own needs, whether it be a single source solution or a multi-source solution.
There is a graphic at the end that provides an overview, but it will be far more valuable to you if you have read the details that follow;
TYPES OF BROADCAST MONITORING SERVICES
Most broadcast monitoring services fall in one of four categories. Though each has a slight twist or variation to what and how their service works, these general categories apply to all.
- FINANCIAL MODEL: With these services, you are most often required to sign up for an annual subscription, as well as determine the number of “seats” you want (how many can sign-in to use the platform and/or how many searches you are able to conduct per month/year.)
- SERVICE MODEL: Platform services give you access to their monitoring system, but your company is responsible for assigning, training (with some initial guidance) and handling everything about using the system to search and monitor for whatever is desired. Various levels of training and support exist, but most offer some upfront training and user forums to aid ongoing problem solving.
- General Knowledge: Though there are often caps or a cost associated with search volume, these types of platforms allow you to go beyond campaign monitoring. You can monitor an entire industry or subject matter to stay on top of what’s happening and even monitor competitor or category mentions. This may be beneficial for leadership, strategic planners and new business efforts.
- Control: Since business and news doesn’t recognize workday hours, important things often happen outside of the 9 to 5 time frame. With a platform, you can create searches (or ask your team) whenever they happen. And we all know that PR professionals don’t “unplug” when they leave the office.
- DRAW BACKS:
- Training and Retraining: Many businesses assign the “seats” and search responsibility to entry level employees. These employees either get promoted or move on, leaving them to train and re-train numerous times. Most monitoring services don’t offer repeat training, so with successive shifts, there is a steep learning curve and extra staff time required.
- Boolean Expertise: A basic understanding of Boolean is VERY different from Boolean search expertise. Even with applied effort, it will likely take close to 100 or more searches before an individual becomes proficient at Boolean search term creation. Since the individuals assigned this responsibility tend to revolve frequently, seldom is the person manning the searches a true expert. The worst of this is missed mentions (that you will never realize were missed). The costly part is the huge increase in time spent weeding through irrelevant search results.
- Limited Coverage: Most platform services cover nearly every TV station in the US, but their radio coverage is far more sparce. The majority cover 100-300 of the top news/talk stations in the largest cities, plus a small representation from smaller cities. Most also monitor a tiny representation of morning shows from the largest US cities. If you are looking for a comprehensive picture or have a local or regionalized client, you’ll never be able know and present the complete story. NOTE: Many providers claim to monitor thousands of stations, but they often only monitor them for a few hours per day, leaving huge gaps. Your best bet is to request a listing of all stations covered with the time periods monitored for each.
- Clip Restrictions: Not all providers will give you the ability to download and share the clips from the radio mentions (some offer shareable clips only from specific stations). Be sure to ask about this in advance.
- Speech-to-Text: The vast majority of providers use similar Speech-to-Text software. This software frequently produces text that is difficult to comprehend (we call it gibberish). If you cannot share clips and the text version is unreadable, this can create challenges that often require a great deal of additional time and effort for your company in order to present the earned media information in any valuable manner.
- FULL SERVICE:
- FINANCIAL MODEL: Full-service offerings have far more variations in their services and financial models. With these companies, you can often choose from ad-hoc (weekly or month-to-month) or subscription services (annual contract). Most will charge additional fees for standard things, like searching (by hour), clips of the mentions that air and metrics around each hit. Never assume the rate (short or long-term) is all inclusive.
- SERVICE MODEL: These companies do all of the monitoring work for you, from entering the Boolean search terms to producing and sending out the initial mention (hit) reports. Report access, clip shareability, metrics availability and many other variables are treated differently, so be sure to ask about the specific service and report elements that are most important for your company/clients.
- No time drain on you or your staff. It’s like extending your team with experts only when you need it, and without all of the HR issues.
- They are true Boolean search term experts and can help assure that every possible mention in their coverage zone is captured.
- DRAW BACKS:
- Limited Coverage: What is true with self-service is also true with full-service offerings. Most cover nearly every TV station in the US, but their radio coverage is far more sparce. Radio coverage ranges from 100-300 of the top news/talk stations in the largest cities, plus a small representation from smaller cities. Most also monitor a small representation of morning shows from the largest US cities. Other services only monitor broadcast news programming. If you are looking for a comprehensive picture or have a local or regionalized client, you’ll never be able know and present the complete story with limited coverage.
- Clip Restrictions: Not all providers will give you the ability to download and share the clips from the radio mentions (some provide shareable clips only from specific stations). Be sure to ask about this in advance.
- Speech-to-Text: The vast majority of all broadcast monitoring providers use similar Speech-to-Text software. This software frequently produces text that is often difficult to read (we call it gibberish). If you cannot share clips and the text version is unreadable, this can create challenges that often require a great deal of additional time and effort for your company in order to present the earned media information in any valuable manner.
- CLIPPING SERVICE:
- FINANCIAL MODEL: Though you may think of a clipping service as something related to print (digital or paper), this term has carried over into broadcast as well. There are also many variances within this type of service. Some offer subscriptions that include a certain volume of radio/TV clips. Others offer single clips at fixed prices based on a few variables. Delivery formats, shareability, metrics availability and other factors are treated uniquely, so be sure to ask about what is most important to you.
- SERVICE MODEL: Most often this is a full-service model, where the company pulls the requested clip(s) and sends them to you. This is most often utilized by those looking for a small number of mentions/clips and know the specific date, time and stations where they aired.
- Cost Savings: If you are a financially-challenged start-up or dealing with a brand or category that seldom gets discussed in general media (can’t even think of one, however), then this is an option that won’t pull budget from other critical categories. Though the cost per clip/project will be far more than the average would be with a full monitoring ad-hoc or a subscription, your overall savings will be considerable.
- DRAW BACKS:
- Specific Details Required: If you don’t know the exact date, time and station, this type of service may not be able to aid you in obtaining full clips.
- Missed Mentions: Media is far more connected and tuned-in than you may imagine. If you got a mention or multiples on a station, there’s a very good chance that other stations will pick it up. If a press release was issued, then the chances of this increase 10-fold. If you aren’t monitoring, you’ll never know and be able to capture the additional coverage.
- AGGREGATOR PLATFORM:
- FINANCIAL MODEL: This is almost always a platform service (SaaS) that requires an annual subscription, since these types of services are aimed at single-source media monitoring for all channels.
- SERVICE MODEL: As with any platform service, you will be giving initial training and then are required to enter all search terms around every campaign/brand/subject you want to track. You’ll also need to have individuals weed through all of the resulting content to assure it is relevant to your searches. Initial formulation of reports is also likely to be needed at the onset. Reporting variations are great between platforms, so be sure to ask about the extent of customizing reports.
- Integrated Reports: These types of services are designed to simplify the creation of composite reports that showcase mentions across multiple media channels. Though report formats, customization options, usability and many other things differ from platform to platform, they all offer a means for simplifying the integration of data from various channels, which can be useful for cross-channel attribution analysis and much more.
- DRAW BACKS:
- Limited Coverage: Most aggregators monitor the big media sources in each channel. Very few include much of anything that is regionally or locally focused.
- Cost: You pay a premium price to blend all media channels in to a single-source solution. If you are a large brand that gets tons of media mentions of all types, as well as creates campaigns that have a social media/digital focus, then this price delivers significant value. For more regionally focused efforts, you can utilize a full-service monitoring provider to append your big brand data. If you are a smaller or more regionally focused brand, this is less likely to be a great value.
We hope this information will be helpful for you. Any questions or things you feel we didn’t cover, please leave a comment below and we will reply!
Though we aren’t here to tout our advantages, we would like to say that National Aircheck is a full-service provider and the only one of any type that currently monitors more than 600 US radio stations. Since we will customize radio coverage to suit your needs, we are always adding more.