Audience Measurement -
Circulation and clicks in the mist
As in most other countries, audience data is crucial for a functioning market and plays a determining role in the decision process of advertisers. In Morocco, this rule does not seem to apply to the print sector that seems to be responding to a different set of rules.
Television channels remain the most attractive platform for advertising, attracting 39.80% of total gross advertisement investments according to data received by the Moroccan Association of Advertisers (Groupement des Annonceurs du Maroc [GAM]). In Morocco, the body charged with television audience measuring is the Interprofessional Centre for Audience Measurement (Centre Interprofessionnel d’Audimétrie [CIAUMED]), which is an association based on shared economic interests. Among its members, one can find the state-owned SNRT, the private/public TV and radio company SOREAD 2M, the private TV Médi1TV, the Régie 3 advertising agency, the GAM (see above) and the Union of Communication Advisory Agencies (Union des Agences Conseil en Communication [UACC]). So far, it has been regarded as a credible source for both the media and advertising sectors.
When conducting this study, we were unable to get audience data for Medi1TV. In fact, CIAUMED claimed that from 2015 to 2017 Medi1 TV did not renew its contract with the organisation. While we know that in 2014 the TV channel went through a capital restructuring and re-branding, we could not find out the reasons for which the channel did not renew its contract for two years even if it is part of the CIAUMED association. The CIAUMED communicated to us that the data will be available anew in late 2017.
Collecting and publishing radio audience numbers is the prerogative of the Interprofesssionnal Centre for Radio Audience Measurements (Centre interprofessionnel de mesures d'audience radio au Maroc [CIRAD]). It was created in 2010 and works in conjunction with the international, commercially operating market research firm IPSOS, to gather and analyse audience data. Following the model of the CIAUMED (see above), the CIRAD, which is also an association based on shared economic interests, bringing together private and public radios, their advertising agencies as well as certain advertising clients. After having obtained their data and analysing it, a methodological weakness became obvious to the MOM team: the panels of individuals used for research change all the time, from each ‘wave’ of audience measurements to the next and do not follow any specific characteristics. Using independently pooled panels make it impossible to compile unbiased audiences over a large period of time.
Regarding the print media, the Moroccan Organism for Justification and Diffusion (Organisme Marocain de Justification et de Diffusion [OJD]) is a recognised organisation publishing and controlling the circulation, distribution and sales numbers. The data is obtained directly from the print outlets on the basis of voluntary communication. The OJD works on a trust basis, through sworn statements by the different outlets and then verify these numbers. Of all the print outlets included in our study, only La Nouvelle Tribune did not have its numbers verified. In 2007, random verifications were conducted and two papers (La Nouvelle Tribune and Aujourd’hui Le Maroc) were given a warning as they had purposely misled the OJD by inflating sales numbers. It should be noted that at the time, it was the French section of the OJD that conducted verifications as the Moroccan OJD did not exist at that time.
For an outlet to remain a member of the OJD, numbers must be communicated at the end of each year. However, we have noticed when conducting this study, that outlets such Al Massae and l’Opinion did not publish their 2016 numbers as of October 2017 The OJD published Al Massae’s numbers in late October 2017, backdating them in May 2017.
For certain outlets, such as l’Opinion and La Nouvelle Tribune, the number of ‘total circulation’ amounts to 2.5, respectively 3 times the one of ‘paid individual purchase’ - which is the indicator we chose to focus on. Primarily, this gap is explained by high levels of ‘unpaid distribution’, reaching for instance 33% of the total distribution of L’Opinion and 38% of La Nouvelle Tribune. An additional element is the large number of subscriptions, that, in these cases, are known to lead towards complacency.
As in most countries, there is no audience measurement system in place for websites in Morocco. Advertisers consider Google Analytics to be the most accurate representation of site visits. Although news websites’ owners have the option of making this data publicly available on Similar Web, very few have chosen to do so - either consciously or due to a lack of information.
On a side note, it should be pointed out that the news sites that appear as leaders on Similar Web and Alexa have not been automatically those that we have included in this study. We have chosen to submit a list of ‘most popular news sites’, compiled from crossing Alexa and Similar Web rankings, to our Advisory group. Among those that we have chosen to exclude, we find Andalus Press that as of late September 2017, ranked as number 2 on Alexa.
It is known that there are ways, both legal and illegal ones, to purchase audience shares and clicks. Like in most countries surveyed by the MOM, Morocco faces difficulties with regards to online audience measurement, which tends to create distortions in the placement of advertising.
These results were corroborated in Freedom House’s latest report “Freedom of the Net 2017”.