An interview with Dominique Baldassare, Head of International Business Management at Argus Data Insights Deutschland GmbH
The coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every industry around the world. While some industries have proved to have strong defenses, others will struggle to reset to a normal that is constantly redefined and redesigned.
Has the pandemic disrupted the media intelligence industry? We are already seeing that media consumption demand has shifted. Media monitoring services are being re-routed. Governments will make even more significant interventions, and companies will have to continuously adapt to new market conditions.
In this interview with Dominique Baldassare, Head of International Business Management at Argus Data Insights Deutschland GmbH, we are discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the media monitoring industry, the obstacles faced during lock-down, impact on services and products, changes in media consumption and how technology can help ensure full remote operation.
Q: Many say that the coronavirus is here to stay, creating a new normal for how we work and interact with people. Has this situation disrupted media monitoring, and if so, in what way?
Dominique: The coronavirus has certainly created a new normal for how we work and interact with people. However, it has not really disrupted the media monitoring industry in Germany, even if continuing the analogue part of our workflow was more challenging than the digital side.
The disruption has rather been caused by the radical changes in the corresponding media coverage. This is because of the lock-down and because, as everybody knows, all events involving significant interaction between people, such as sports races, international fairs, tourism activities, etc. were no longer able to take place or happen. Even if our clients from these sectors didn’t want to stop their monitoring orders, there would have been no relevant media coverage during this time. So, the end result was very similar to a disruption, however not or not only for our media monitoring service, but more in terms of the media coverage, which was in the past only dominated by the coronavirus and its development.
Q: What were the main obstacles you encountered and did you manage to overcome them?
Dominique: To fully understand the situation we faced and continue to face with regard to the protective measures against the coronavirus in Germany, allow me to first explain the local copyright situation to you. As we are still not allowed to send all print media content to our customers digitally, Germany remains a specific case in our industry. Even if there is a local license agency, its license covers approximately half of the 6000 print media that Argus Data Insights monitors. This means that the sending of about 3000 print media can only be done by post if you do not have any extra license contracts with the respective publishers. These are difficult to negotiate in a country that has around 1500 publishers. In addition to this restriction, the German license fees are more expensive than in a lot of other European countries. This means that many of our customers still receive their content by post.
Our industry was already very digital before coronavirus, but it has become even more digital during the pandemic. There was no place for analogue issues during the peak of the coronavirus crisis and of course, this was the big challenge for us and at the same time for the majority of our small clients that still receive their content by post.
Q: Did you have to make changes to your services and come up with new products?
Dominique: Despite our workflow being partly not digital due to the local copyright situation, we managed to successfully maintain the entire service. This is because we were able to guarantee the recommended protective measures for all tasks that could not be undertaken by working from home. We did not make any changes, but rather some adaptations to the analogue workflow of the company.
Here we had to think about new ways of working and new ways of distributing the content provided by our analogue service. We are still in the early stages of this, but it will be very inspiring to provide a new adapted product in the future!
Furthermore, many publishers started to introduce an e-paper version of their service, something which brings new possibilities for the future for us too, but on the other hand, some publishers unfortunately had to stop their service. So, the coronavirus crisis had and is still having a big impact on the German print media landscape. For digital services, such as the compilation of daily press reviews or media analysis, we saw no significant impact, as this work could be performed by our colleagues working from home. Since the beginning of the crisis, we had also been producing a daily licence-free “coronavirus” newsletter for our customers, which they could share with all of their employees.
Q: Tech-savvy companies managed to respond well to the emergency crisis caused by the coronavirus. Did you have to implement any new technologies or work with an external partner to maintain full operation and ensure that you kept delivering the same high quality and on time?
Dominique: We did not have to implement new technologies or work with external partners to deal with the emergency crisis. Without doubt, this was also because there was not enough time to do or think about that. However, as mentioned above, the coronavirus crisis stimulated us to think differently about the future, to be even more creative and to try to find new ways of working to overcome the challenging, restrictive and expensive copyright situation we have in Germany.
I think the coronavirus crisis has already projected us into a new digital world and accelerated the digital debate. This is a very exciting point in time for our industry at a local and global level, but it will, of course, take plenty of time to be fully achieved. We are certainly not ruling out cooperation with external partners and other operators in the sector.
Personally, I think it is extremely important to stay in touch with publishers and to work with them to find new solutions for the future. A lot of publishers are already willing to provide their content to Media Monitoring Organisations (MMO) digitally, incl. paywall content, but there are currently no standards for this method of delivery, which makes the subsequent workflow very complicated for MMOs. That’s why the standardisation of this kind of delivery could certainly help a lot.
Q: The media industry has been affected in an extraordinary way by the coronavirus. We have already seen changes to media consumption. Do you believe that this could be an opportunity for the media industry and MMOs to work together and keep consumers well informed?
Dominique: The protective measures against the coronavirus have accelerated the development of the digitisation of our private and business world. E-commerce, online shopping, online ordering services, gaming, digital entertainment, app providers, to name just a few, are some of the major winners of the coronavirus crisis. Because the post offices in Germany, but also in a lot of other European countries, disrupted their services for a couple of weeks, a lot of domestic and international consumers thought about switching from postal delivery to digital delivery for their content. This reaction also encouraged a lot of publishers to offer digital services to their customers, which has obviously had an impact on our industry.
On the one hand, it accelerates the digitisation of the media landscape in Germany, but on the other hand, the copyright restrictions mean that a lot of clients are unable to switch their delivery from postal to digital because it is currently too expensive. If this issue were to trigger a new way of thinking for the license bodies, this would be very welcome and would build good foundations for the next steps of the digitisation of our industry.
About Dominique Baldassare
Dominique has about 30 years of experience in the field of international cooperation. He has worked for ARGUS DATA INSIGHTS since 2001, where he currently serves as Head of International Business Management. Over the last 20 years, he has acquired deep knowledge in the field of international business development, especially within the FIBEP network. Before joining ARGUS DATA INSIGHTS, he worked as Program Director for an international NGO that has branches in more than 12 countries across the world. He completed his German Studies at the University of Lyon (France) and Berlin (Germany). Being half-French and half-Italian, he is able to converse in French, German, English, and Italian as well.
About ARGUS DATA INSIGHTS
The ARGUS DATA INSIGHTS group is a specialist for media intelligence solutions. Around 700 employees compile, analyse and condense relevant media content into high-quality analyses and media reports – the basis for well-informed decisions in marketing, communication and strategy. The company with headquarters in Berlin and Zurich offers its customers the unique combination of innovative technologies, personal consultation, comprehensive worldwide media coverage, state-of-the-art research methods and more than 120 years of experience.