Michael O’Connell: “It’s an exciting time to be in the industry”
The Australian media intelligence market is highly innovative, and always sparks our interest here at PR Measured. And so, when Medianet announced its acquisition of Mediaverse, we were excited. We caught up with Michael O’Connell, Managing Director at Medianet, to learn what was behind the move and how the market was developing.
Following a lengthy career in PR in the UK and Australia, Michael O’Connell created his own media monitoring and analysis consultancy, The Media Research Group, in 1996. The consultancy was acquired by AAP in 2007 and merged with Medianet. O’Connell joined as Managing Director and continues to shape one of Australia’s leading media analysis providers.
Medianet is unique in our industry. It is the commercial arm of Australian Associated Press (AAP) – Australia’s national news agency established in 1935 and one of only a handful of news agencies that remain completely commercially-run. AAP, which has more than 600 staff internationally, provides breaking news, images, video and digital content to media outlets globally. It also uses its unique media position to deliver communications solutions for businesses and organisations.
Medianet was established in 1983 as a media release distribution operation before acquiring analysis and monitoring firm The Media Research Group (MRG) in 2007, Directories in 2014 and Mediaverse in 2016.
It now comprises three divisions:
- Media release distribution – Australia’s leading provider of media release distribution and contacts database
- Media Analysis – MRG and Mediaverse
- Directories – the publisher of the Who’s Who series of books and guides to Local and National Government, Associations and the Margaret Gee’s Media Guide.
Tell us about Mediaverse and how it enhances Medianet’s offering?
Michael O’Connell: Mediaverse is the perfect acquisition for us and we are delighted to welcome them into the AAP family. As AMEC members would know, Mediaverse is an award-winning analysis agency which won 15 AMEC awards. Its use of transparent reporting software, which allows clients to see directly how each news item has been evaluated, combined with well-developed business systems resulted in extraordinary growth since its inception in 2008.
Its expansion into corporate reputation measurement is equally impressive with an interactive visual dashboard allowing clients to view a variety of indicators in one place.
I am a strong believer in blending journalism, PR and management consulting skills with media analysis expertise and our staff embrace this ethos.
Even more pleasing is, by blending MRG and Mediaverse, the influx of dedicated staff, all with post graduate qualifications and a love of media and communications.
What makes our combined offering special is the quality of the succinct and insightful analysis. I am a strong believer in blending journalism, PR and management consulting skills with media analysis expertise and our staff embrace this ethos.
And there is no better environment for that to flourish than AAP. With more than 300 working journalists and sub editors in our Melbourne and Sydney offices we have a wealth of experience to draw on.
How would you describe the Australian / New Zealand Market?
Michael O’Connell: One of the truly amazing things I find when attending AMEC conferences is how far the media analysis industry has come. I attended the first AMEC conference in Berlin in 2009 with probably no more than 60 people in the room. In London last year we had more than 300 delegates culminating in a fiercely-contested awards night.
For many years Australia and New Zealand had an identity crisis – were we part of Asia or did we cling to being a far-flung European outpost? And the evolution of our communications industry reflected this. We were perhaps a little slower to embrace new possibilities.
Times have definitely changed. Just as we punch above our weight in the sporting arena, we are doing the same in the communications industry. The number of AMEC awards won by Mediaverse and iSentia are one example that we not only hold our own against the best in the world – but sometimes set the agenda in the way we report, analyse and advise our clients.
While the Australian/NZ market continues to grow we face similar challenges as our international colleagues – finding smarter, more cost effective ways of doing things and helping our clients value measurement and analysis.
What are the current challenges that local PR clients face – how does Medianet support those challenges
Michael O’Connell: I spent several years as a PR consultant in Australia and London. When I walk the floor of the larger consultancies here today it’s a whole new world. The speed of change has been dramatic. When I established The Media Research Group as a monitoring company in 1996 we were still using scissors and glue and had the constant hum of photocopiers whirring away in the background.
PR faces a constant battle of being relevant and cost effective. Legacy media is being disrupted by digital media, traditional print news outlets being usurped by online space, marketing budgets eating into comms budgets – it’s a dynamic but tough environment.
Our Medianet Editor has a seat at the daily editorial conference and puts forward newsworthy releases to chiefs of staff and section heads not only at AAP but to the newsrooms of all Australian media.
Our Medianet offering works side-by-side with PR professionals. As Australia’s largest media distribution company we get the media release out to the right person – using a combination of AAP’s national news wire and our own carefully-tailored lists of bloggers and journalists.
The introduction of our new Medianet Editor service ensures media releases are seen by the right people. Our Medianet Editor has a seat at the daily editorial conference and puts forward newsworthy releases to chiefs of staff and section heads not only at AAP but to the newsrooms of all Australian media.
And if for whatever reason we think a release is not newsworthy – we’ll tell you so. We provide feedback from the newsrooms and provide advice. It all goes back to us being media people, whether we are distributing, writing or analysing – it’s about a partnership with our clients.
How do you see AAP Medianet’s current product mix evolving?
Michael O’Connell: Our product mix constantly evolves. Our Medianet Editor service is an example – it’s game changing. Our product mix looks to leverage the unique access to every newsroom in Australia. I also see opportunities in the monitoring space as technology improves and client expectations change. From an analysis perspective, we want to grow our high-level qualitative analysis product and expand the success of Mediaverse’s corporate reputation product.
It’s an exciting time to be in the industry.
The Australian market continues to excite, creating innovative solutions to issues being raised by PR pros. AAP Medianet supports PR throughout the process – providing release distribution services with truly phenomenal access to newsrooms and consultancy services to help PR pros understand their reputation and earned media performance. We’re looking forward to hearing what’s next.