Share of Voice is a broken metric. Here’s how we fix it.

Andrew Steinberg

July 20th, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Traditional SOV measurement is not just inaccurate; it’s misleading 
  • Share of Readership reveals what’s actually working for your brand and the competition
  • Below we walk through a real-world example of SOV vs Share of Readership

Share of Voice (SOV) is one of the most common metrics that PR & Comms teams use to benchmark the quantity and quality of their coverage against their competitive set. 

A major goal in looking at a brand’s SOV is to figure out your company’s position in the market. By understanding which competitors are succeeding, how they’re doing it, and where, you can identify and act on gaps in strategy.

But even important calculations like SOV aren’t immune to “garbage in, garbage out.” Inputs need to be accurate and transparent to in turn ensure an accurate representation of the competitive landscape.

And regarding that representation of the competitive landscape: What does it mean for a competitor to win? Are they getting written about in more publications? In publications with a higher potential reach? Or is there something else?

The fundamental issue with the traditional methodology for SOV is that teams are still relying on PR estimates like potential reach and volume of mentions as the determining factors to analyze success and their positions in the market. But as I see day-in, and day-out at Memo, not all press is created equally, and content can perform drastically differently within the same publication. Let’s take a look:

How Share of Voice in the press is traditionally calculated

Legacy media monitoring tools like Meltwater and Cision typically allow you to calculate Share of Voice in two ways:

1) Volume of press = ([# of mentions for your brand] / [# of mentions for your brand + competitors]) x 100

2) Potential Reach = ([your brand’s total potential reach] / [aggregate potential reach of your brand + competitors]) x 100

While method #1 gives your team a general understanding as to how often your brand is written about versus your competitors and method #2 gives your team a sense as to the average prominence of the pubs writing about you versus your competitors, both are missing a critically important aspect of coverage performance: what’s working for my competitors? How many people are actually reading these articles? 

Rethinking Share of Voice for 2022 (and beyond)

To accurately assess how you stack up against your competitors, look at Share of Readership (SOR), which gives you a competitive benchmark grounded in reality, and better identifies opportunities to insert your brand in the conversations that resonate most in your industry.  

Let’s look at a real-world example comparing SOV to SOR between two major brands during June 2022: Hulu and Netflix. (Full disclosure: While this is actual data exported directly from a competitive report in Memo’s dashboard, I’ve changed the time period and names of the companies for this article to respect customer privacy.)

Tracking from a media list of the top 400 publications in the US, here is the breakdown in coverage:

  • Hulu mentions: 708 articles, 10.54 billion impressions
  • Netflix mentions: 694 articles, 10.13 billion impressions

Using method #1, Hulu and Netflix have a share of 50.5% and 49.5% of the coverage respectively – about a 50/50 split.

Using method #2, Hulu and Netflix’s share of impressions come out to 51% and 49% – again, about a 50/50 split.

So if I’m Hulu or Netflix, there’s not a whole lot to take away from SOV analyses based on clip counts or impressions, other than to keep chipping away at the competition by doing more of what we’re doing already. This is where treating all press equally, even if from the same publication, can mask critical indicators of competitive performance.

Here’s why: The combined 708 articles Hulu was mentioned in had a total of 6,221,717 readers. Netflix’s 694 articles, however, were read a total number of 12,019,205 times:

Netflix has a Share of Readership of about 66% whereas Hulu has a SOR of about 34%, a much different outcome for the month of June, and a jumping-off point to deeper insights: what press led Netflix to capture more interest from readers? How can Netflix reinforce its dominance? Where are the relevant topics for Hulu to insert itself next month? 

Impressions and clip counts don’t just miss; they mislead

Based on traditional SOV analyses, Hulu and Netflix would have both come to incorrect conclusions about where they sit in the competitive landscape.

And it’s easy to see why traditional SOV would mislead them: they’re fairly similar competitors who get written about with similar frequency in similar publications. Treating each article equally (method #1), or treating each article within a publication equally (method #2) completely ignores the variation in how readers respond to different content. (We published an entire report on readership vs UVMs here.)

If your goal is measuring how consumers are engaging with you versus the competition, shouldn’t success and SOV be defined by the number of people that are actually being reached?

Understanding your competitors’ success can no longer just involve understanding where and how many times they are getting mentioned in the press. Readership finally allows brands to dig deeper and see what’s truly working in the competitive landscape. Will you seize the opportunity?

To learn more about how accurate readership can uncover how you’re really measuring up against the competition, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.

Book a demo today to see what Memo can do for you

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