Media Monitoring – What it Is, What it Does, How to Use It

Media monitoring is the process of carefully reading, watching or listening to the editorial content of media sources (including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, broadcasters and the Internet) on a continuing basis and of identifying, saving and analyzing content that contains specific keywords or topics.

Monitoring the News Media

Monitoring editorial content of news sources including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, TV and radio stations is by far the most common type of media monitoring. This typicalls is called “news monitoring”.

Most companies, government agencies, not-for-profit media clic organizations (e.g. hospitals, universities, associations, etc.) and individuals such as authors and celebrities utilize media monitoring as a tool to identify mentions of their organization, its brands, and executives in news media. Some organizations also deploy media monitoring tools to track the success of their news releases, to find information about competitors and specific issues relevant to the organization, to benchmark performance against competitors, to manage corporate or brand reputation, to gather industry intelligence, to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of corporate communications, to identify new business opportunities, and other purposes.

In addition to monitoring news, many organizations now also monitor social media on the Internet, tracking word of mouth mentions about their organization in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, message boards and forums. This is commonly known as social media monitoring, word-of-mouth monitoring, or buzz monitoring.

Media Monitoring Profile & Search Terms

The monitoring process starts with the search profile and the search terms or keyword(s) or keyword phrases. The search profile contains the service terms: the media to be monitored, the type of articles and/or mentions to be delivered, the time period of the monitoring, and the method of article delivery.

The search terms are those key words or phrases that must appear in the article such as the name of the organization or its affiliates or brands. An article containing a key word is usually referred to as a “clip” or “clipping,” “news clip,” or “press clipping.” The clips are delivered either physically by mail or as a digital file, usually via e-mail.

While some organizations use in-house staff to monitor news and social media, most companies and PR agencies outsource the function to commercial services. The commercial services can usually provide more comprehensive media coverage than in-house staff using online news monitoring tools such as Google News. Commercial media monitoring services often deliver better results at lower cost than the actual labor costs of in-house news monitoring with staff.

Media Monitoring History

Media monitoring started in the 1800s as press clipping services. Press clipping services (called “press cutting” in Europe) employed human readers to scan articles in printed news publications looking for the key words of multiple clients. The readers marked the keywords in articles, then used razor blades to cut out the marked articles, put the clipped articles into client folders and delivered the clips via mail to the client. Most press clipping services served a limited geographic area – one country, for instance – and monitored publications in only one language. According to studies by GE, Kodak and other organizations in the 1970s, the human readers typically missed 30 to 40% of articles containing clients’ key words, largely because the readers were quickly scanning the articles for multiple clients’ keywords, not actually reading the articles word for word.

Broadcast Monitoring Services

In the 1950s, specialized broadcast monitoring companies started to monitor TV news broadcasts for mention of their client company key words. Initially, the broadcast monitoring companies used humans to watch programs, write abstracts of the content and log mentions of clients’ key words. The development of Betamax and VHS videotape recorders, along with closed caption text for hearing impaired, enabled the broadcast monitors to record the programs and use software to search the closed caption text for clients’ key words.

In the United States, that closed caption system is still in use although computers (not videotape recorders) are now used to record the programs. In countries that do not have closed caption text embedded in the TV broadcast signal, broadcast monitoring companies now often use speech to text software to create a character-based document which can be searched for key words. Closed caption text and the latest generation speech to text software are each about 70% to 80% complete and accurate.

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