Thu | Jan 17, 2019

More Local Research Needed on Digital Media

Published:Friday | December 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Claude Robinson
Penelope Abernathy

Research on media in Jamaica has largely focused on audience share and the ranking of the various media houses. There is, however, a call for deeper research to be engaged on the changing state of media in Jamaica.

The call has come from communications scholar and educator Claude Robinson.

Robinson along with Penelope Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics in the United States, were guests at the latest edition of the Gleaner Editors' Forum.

"One of the things that we suffer from ... is that the anecdote suggests that there is some shift taking place, but we can't quantify it and that is a real problem that we need to address," he said.

Robinson was speaking about the transition of media globally from traditional or legacy platforms to digital platforms.

advertising revenue

According to Abernathy, a professor at the University of North Carolina, the business model for media has been disrupted given that advertising revenue in America has fallen below 1950s levels. She also shared that research indicates that advertising revenue on digital platforms in the US runs upwards of five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Prior to the introduction of digital, advertising dollars stood at a constant of two per cent of GDP.

Another piece of data shared by Abernathy is that media houses should be reducing cost in their traditional operation by six per cent while increasing revenue in digital media by an equivalent six per cent on an annual basis. She also pointed out that media houses in the US are only capturing about three per cent of revenue of the entire digital market and have about 16 years to make the transition to a full digital revenue model.

Robinson, however, lamented that this kind of data about the economics of digital media does not exist for Jamaican media.

"What we suspect is that there is a shift in some of the revenues that accrue to media shifting to telecoms, we don't know to what extent that is so or whether there is in fact a lot more spend taking place. Is it the spend that buys from traditional advertisers or is it the spend from consumers or are people paying for media? So one of the things that we are not sure of, is the measurement, the total spend in media and marketing and how that spend is distributed between legacy media, telecoms and new start-ups, the data is just not there," he told the forum.

The cost associated with conducting research of this nature was posited as a prohibitive factor, but Robinson proposed that media houses collaborate with universities and training agencies to increase research that seeks to understand the fundamental changes that are taking place in the media market.

"It's an area of need and it's something I think the industry and the media educators and others need to come together and figure out how to do it because I don't think we understand the level of creative destruction that is taking place and its impact on the industry," Robinson said.