All media is not equal

This is part 16 of a multi-part “More from media” series.

If you had to rank the following media platforms according to the amount of audience exposure they get in an average month, how would you rank them?

Kevin VanDam

Part of knowing the players is knowing their audience size.

(a) BASS Times
(c) “The Bassmasters” television program on ESPN2 and the Outdoor Channel
(d) Bassmaster Magazine
(e) Women’s college softball on ESPNU

The correct order is:

(1) Women’s college softball on ESPNU
(3) Bassmaster Magazine
(4) BASS Times
(5) “The Bassmasters” television program on ESPN2 and the Outdoor Channel

I am not making this up. Those rankings are accurate.

Let’s take a closer look.

Women’s college softball gets terrible ratings … but they’re not nearly as bad as television fishing programs. That’s why women’s college softball is on television in time slots that fishing programs would kill to have — women’s softball gets a bigger audience and the television station can charge more for advertising. It’s all about the money … and it should be. gets millions of page views every month from a million or more unique visitors. If there’s a problem with this stat and the ranking, it’s that these views are spread across hundreds of stories and photos that are posted there each month. Unless the story is a major feature that “lives” on the homepage for several days, most elements get a few thousand views … or fewer.

The great thing about web pages is that you can tell exactly how many times a page was viewed, for how long (called “stickiness”) and from how many different computers. You can even tell where the visitors came from (what other site) and where they go when they leave (what other site). These are the most reliable numbers in all of media, and every website has access to its numbers. Unfortunately, a lot of websites lie about them.

Bassmaster Magazine reaches about 525,000 BASS members. In addition, there’s a thing called “pass-along readership” that presumes multiple people other than the member/subscriber are also looking at the magazine. This puts the total of persons who view Bassmaster at well over 1 million and perhaps over 2 million. Of course, the tricky thing with magazines is that you don’t really know how many people read them and how many throw them in the trash before ever opening them.

BASS Times has about 100,000 subscribers and a pass-along readership estimate of over 300,000 readers.

“The Bassmasters” has a viewership of about 300,000. When it debuted in 1984 on TNN, it had a viewership of about 300,000. That’s zero growth in more than 30 years. For the Bassmaster Classic, the number goes up to about 500,000.

Surprised? Most people are when they hear this. They overestimate television numbers and underestimate women’s softball. As a longtime BASS employee during the ESPN era, I grew weary of being asked, “Why don’t they put fishing shows on during prime time?”

The answer is simple: “Because anything else will get better ratings.”

An ESPN exec that put fishing on during prime time would have been fired before the first commercial break.

Know your media

Part of knowing the players is knowing their reach (audience size). If it’s a magazine, how many people get it? If it’s radio or television, how many tune in? If it’s a website, how many unique visitors are there each month?

It would be nice to be the King of All Media (a title claimed by Howard Stern), but since your time and energy are limited, it’s good to know where you get the best bang for your buck. As usual, knowledge is power.

Radio and television numbers are carefully monitored by independent auditors. Access to their statistics is available on an expensive subscription basis. Web metrics are available to the individual sites and through independent agencies, also on a subscription basis.

Newspaper and magazine subscription numbers are reported each year to the U.S. Postal Service, and those numbers are periodically printed in the respective publications for all to see.

If you are surprised to learn of some of these numbers, imagine your pro staff manager. It’s a pretty safe bet he didn’t know them, either. Maybe he needs to be educated. Not all pro staff managers are good at their jobs, but the good ones are easy to identify. They’re the ones who hired you!

Absent objective criteria …

Without hard numbers, it can be tough to assess the best use of your media efforts. That’s where your pro staff manager comes in. Well-informed or completely clueless, he knows what he likes and that needs to be what you value most.

If he thinks some quirky little TV show is the greatest thing ever to hit his flat-screen, you need to get on it. If he reads a particular magazine cover to cover every month, you need to get in it. And if he thinks some new media platform is going to revolutionize the world in six months, you need to get ahead of it. Be where he wants you to be, but know that most pro staff managers overvalue television and undervalue radio and the web.

Radio is often dismissed because it’s tough to quantify. How many people were listening? But just because your sponsors don’t care about a media type doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It’s your job to get yourself out there and help them move product. One pro staff manager might not like radio, but the next might love it.

Not many sponsors valued social media a few years ago, and now many are deciding to hire or cut pro staff based on the number of Facebook and Twitter followers they have. On a lot of levels that kind of slavish attention to social media numbers doesn’t make sense, but it’s easily quantifiable and that makes the pro staff manager’s job easier. (“Our pro staff has more Twitter followers than anybody else’s! Yippee!”)


  1. Is anybody watching? Don’t just assume they are … find out.
  2. What do your sponsors want … other than “everything”?

Ken Duke is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. He has 33 years of experience working in a multitude of media platforms, and he’s arguably the most knowledgeable stat guy in the sport.
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Author: Ken Duke

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Ken Duke is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. He has 33 years of experience working in a multitude of media platforms, and he’s arguably the most knowledgeable stat guy in the sport.[/author_info] [/author]

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