Is online market research worth the bother?

Before the online age, advertisers placed great store on customer demographics, opinions and attitudes, behavior, geography, media consumption and the like. Advertising agencies created advertising campaigns to target particular audience groups for their clients – often with considerable success.

Now we have online marketing, content marketing, digital marketing and mobile marketing. But it would seem that advertisers know less about their online audience than they do of their offline audience.

It is not uncommon for example for media buying agencies to place online ads in Print Media newspaper websites based on the offline audience readership metrics – the assumption being that the online and offline audience must be similar.

Well, what do you know; it looks like it pays to research your online audience.

It turns out The Telegraph and Guardian Unlimited websites do indeed attract the same readers online and offline, however The Sun, The Times and the Daily Mail attract a much broader online audience. Heather Hopkins of Hitwise brought this to our attention in 2007 – yes, I know, it’s old news, but I rediscovered it yesterday whilst I was doing some research for one of our clients. We often talk about the value of providing access to your archive of “old news”, its one of the principles of content marketing, if it’s online someone will find it and find it useful.

If you are interested in researching you audience you may end up using the services of companies such as Hitwise, Nielsen Online comScore and quantcast. If you have a significant audience based in the United States, you might be interested in checking out the audience profile for your site on quantcast. Also you might want to have a look at their new service the media planner allowing advertisers to target audience by age, gender, income, ethnicity and education. The service is free and is focused on US Internet audiences, however ‘Quantified Publishers’ can get access to breakdowns of their audience from around the world.

Now, getting back to researching the audience for that social marketing campaign, what is the difference between the US and UK population browsing habits for a particular demographic? I was tempted to assume there would be significant similarities but what do you know…..

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