Old Symposia Never Die, They Become a Forum!

When you have as much gray hair and have worked in our industry as long as I have, you can benefit from looking back over a working lifetime of different conferences, summits, and even symposia. These range from small private seminars in exotic locations (I will not mention locations in case my boss is reading!) to large scale commercial events. My office and indeed some rooms at home are full of branded knick knacks and goodies picked up at these events (my wife loved that SBS Superstation-branded bathrobe!). Speaking as someone who has worked in the media research business for over 20 years, in my view the best events tend to have a strong ethos and hold true to the promise to which the organisers promoted. I have had the privilege to be involved for many years in co-sponsoring and organising of the Worldwide Readership Research Symposium (WRRS), as well as the more recent but no less valuable Compete Digital CMO Summit.

Often media research-based conferences tend towards a sales promotion of the latest technology or practice with little or no critical appraisal from the audience. In the case of the “selling under the guise” of education (“sugg-ing”) this can be very frustrating as research vendors demonstrate the benefits of a new approach without lifting the lid on the “black box” methodology. Historically the WRRS audience would give short shrift to any speaker attempting to pull the wool over their eyes. As the print medium has evolved, the biennial WRRS has expanded in terms of the variety of content and moved to recognise the issues that publishers and media agencies face commercially. This transitioned from a discussion of what a reader is; to the most efficient ways to conduct surveys to ensure high quality results (sampling and response rates); to how we can make sure print is fairly treated in the advertising tracking solutions; to how we combine offline and online audiences for a publisher.

It is really the development of the hybrid or cross-platform publisher that has driven the programme committee to expand the reach of the event to incorporate pure play online publishers and the players involved in measuring their content and advertising.  This year’s event under the new name of the Print and Digital Research Forum, takes place in San Francisco between 10th and 13th October. As you can see from the site, this is longer than your average conference, but we do only meet once every two years (so we have twice as much to talk about!). As well as expanding the remit of the event to more fully embrace digital pure play companies, we are also for the first time exploring whether to break the event into two parts (the first two days to address more commercial issues, whilst the later with a greater focus on technical and methodological debate).

If you are curious about taking part either as a speaker or a participant it is not too late. Please visit the PDRF site (address listed above) and send in your synopsis, but hurry as the deadline of 18th March is close.

Finally, for those who do like commercial events with goodie bags etc. you will be pleased to know that as well as a unique global audit of Internet Audience Measurement and Print Survey’s, you may also find a branded gift or two. My Ipsos pocket flashlight only bit the dust last year after 6 good years!

Andy Brown

About Andy Brown:
Andy graduated in Marketing in 1985. In 1998 he became a founder director of Kantar Media Research (KMR) and in 2001 became CEO of the KMR Group.Andy remains actively involved in the media industry speaking at events such as the ARF, Media Research Group, Esomar and the UK Market Research Society.