One of the great promises of the digital era was that it would usher in a new era for marketers and advertisers by providing them with vast amounts of data and insights into consumers, how they lived their lives, their likes and dislikes and of course their media consumption habits.
Never before in the history of media has there been so much information and research available about the media consumption habits of Irish people. While some of this has indeed been facilitated by digital and its impressive array of targeting capabilities, it has also been bolstered by a veritable smorgasbord of single media research, each of which focuses on a specific element of the media landscape.
Press has the Joint National Readership Survey (JNRS) and the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC); radio has the Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR); and TV has the TV Audience Measurement (TAM). Digital, meanwhile, has an array of research at its disposal, including the likes of Comscore and Google Analytics.
For its part, out-of-home (OOH) has the Joint National Outdoor Research. You can add to all of this another raft of research from the likes of Kantar TGI and Nielsen.
For an industry that's likely to be worth around €917m in 2017, that's a lot of joint-this and joint-that, yet when it comes to getting a helicopter view of Irish people's media consumption habits, that can deliver accountability and cross-platform transparency and visibility to advertisers and media agencies, there's no joined-up thinking whatsoever.
Individually, the media-specific research that is undertaken by the likes of radio, TV and press is top class, very detailed and provides a wide range of insights that can be used to inform media-purchasing decisions.
But the world has moved on and it's time for the media industry to follow.
The reality is that people are consuming media in all kinds of different ways and the media ecosystem has become a lot more complex and diverse. People are consuming media at different times of the day and in a variety of different formats. In fact, consumption of media in all its guises has probably been higher than it is now.
But again, the market lacks one single source of research that fuses all of these media consumption habits and trends into one single-source body of research.
But all is not lost.
While the industry may be some way off fully embracing single-source research, a step in the right direction will be taken soon when the next JNRS figures bring together the consumption habits of both print and digital readers of the Irish newspaper industry.
Why it has taken so long to get this far beggars belief, given that traditional readers of print have been moving online for many years now. But at least it's a start.
"This is the first instance of true cross-media fusion in the Irish market - combining the audience reach of digital and print versions of news media titles," says Aidan Greene, president of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI), which has been making the case for integrated media research for the past few years.
"The bold step taken by JNRS shows that, not only is it possible, it is affordable in a country of our size. IAPI has been encouraging all media to join together to fuse their separate audience measurement currencies for the past three years. This would finally empower advertisers to measure how the strengths of each medium can be combined to deliver the most efficient audience for their campaigns.
"We can only hope that TV, radio, cinema and out-of-home follow news media's lead and come to the table to deliver a measurement system that better reflects the way advertising campaigns are planned and how audiences consume media," he says.
"In a challenging advertising market, it is finally time for individual media to realise that their audience consumes other media too. By having the confidence to fuse their measurement currencies, they can prove how their medium, be it news media, radio, cinema, TV, out-of-home or digital, works in conjunction with other media to deliver a combined audience for advertisers' campaigns."
On paper, all of this makes sense but when it comes to funding the cost of such a sizeable research project, opinions start to diverge. With Brexit on the horizon and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the advertising industry at the moment, the estimated €3m-€4m cost may lessen the appetite for such a piece of research.
On the other hand, if ever there was a time that the boardrooms of Ireland needed to be convinced about the importance of advertising and the demonstrable return on investment it can make the bottom line, that time has come. And it is incumbent on all the stakeholders within the industry to ensure that this message is heard loud and clear.
But they can only do so if they are armed with the right research and analysis to back up their case.
Contact John McGee at email@example.com
Sunday Indo Business