3 graphs that illustrate the problem with PR impressions

“We know impressions are inaccurate, but at least they’re directionally correct.”
“We know impressions are inaccurate, but we divide them to be more realistic.”
“We know impressions are inaccurate, but no one is forcing us to change.”

“We know impressions are inaccurate, but.” It’s a common and persistent refrain in the PR industry. Years of having no alternative metrics created a status quo of measuring the potential, rather than the actual.

Unfortunately, impressions are not directionally correct at the article level: highly-trafficked outlets don’t always get higher article readership (i.e. unique visitors to an article page) than lower-traffic outlets. And dividing monthly impressions by 7 or 30 days is not a realistic assessment of how content performs: on the same day in the same publication, one article can get one million readers, another one thousand. 

You might say Memo has a refrain of its own: “Impressions are not just inaccurate, they’re misleading.” We’ve published data that shows how impressions distort share of voice and how impressions overlook important outlets. But mechanically, why is this?

Our team analyzes readership data every day. We want to illustrate exactly why impressions obscure the insights that are so glaringly obvious with readership. 

Actual readership among a publication’s articles is highly variable

We pulled an entire month’s worth of content published on an outlet that receives roughly 30 million unique monthly visitors. Each box represents an article, and the size of the box represents that article’s readership, i.e. the number of unique visitors to the article in the first 7 days of publication.

Each of the approximately 800 boxes is a single article published in August 2022 on the same publication. The size of each box represents that article’s readership.

The most-read article that month received over 2000x more visitors than the least-read article. 

There is brand coverage that completely hit it out of the park, and there is coverage that could benefit from further amplification. 

There are article topics that tend to fall on the upper left corner of that graph, and topics that tend to fall on the lower right corner.

There are takedown pieces that blew up, and takedowns that barely made a splash.

Article-level readership provides a wealth of information about earned media performance and strategy. So what about impressions?

Impressions (wrongly) report that every article performs the same

We can visualize the same ~800 articles with potential impressions instead of actual readership. This is what we see:

Each of the approximately 800 boxes is a single article published in August 2022 on the same publication. The size of each box represents that article’s potential reach (aka impressions or UVMs).

Did we get a lot of eyeballs on our product press? Does this outlet get high readership on our industry’s news? Is this negative story worth a spokesperson response? Potential reach doesn’t help us answer any of these questions, but readership does.

It’s the difference between a clippings report where every article has the same performance metric (left) versus a readership report where you know exactly how many people saw the coverage (right):

Sure, the report that tallies up to 225,000,000 potential impressions looks impressive. But with 258 million adults in the US, business leaders know it’s a bogus figure.

Lower UVM publications can get more article readership than higher UVM publications

The monthly unique visitors on a site can be a helpful proxy for publisher authority when, for example, trying to understand the landscape or build an initial media list. But impressions are a horrible proxy for article performance, even across different publications. 

Everyday we see outlets with relatively low monthly visitors publish articles that receive higher readership than content on relatively high-traffic outlets. (A Memo report further examines this trend.)

In fact, one of the first things new Memo users say is “I can’t believe how many people read our placement on [insert niche outlet].” 

To illustrate, here is the same publication visualized above next to a second publication with approximately 75 million UVMs:

Each of the approximately 800 blue boxes is an article published in August 2022 on a publication with 30 million UVMs. Each of the approximately 1,300 purple boxes is an article on a publication with 75 million UVMs. The size of each box represents that article’s readership.

The higher-UVM outlet published the most-read articles among the two publications. But there are hundreds of articles on the lower-UVM outlet that received more readership than content on the higher-UVM outlet. 

We’ve now illustrated that impressions are 1) not directionally correct, and 2) not a realistic assessment of article performance, no matter how you slice them. 

Still, if no one is forcing the issue, why change?

Comms has become more entwined with marketing and business strategy. Its measurement will be too.

One of the biggest PR measurement trends that emerged this year was that Communications teams are working more closely with Marketing and other business functions. With this seat at the table, however, comes expectations of more rigorous measurement. 

Our team has worked with some of the earliest adopters of readership data. The Comms groups that embraced this change a year or two ago are already operating at a different level. They’re more strategic with media relations. They’re better equipped to handle crisis stories. They’re giving earned media its due credit in the broader marketing mix. 

No longer misled by the false impression (pardon our pun) that content performs uniformly on a publication, they’re making better business decisions.

All about article topics, Memo’s secret weapon for readership insights

While the wealth of readership data that the Memo platform provides is certainly exciting, it is hard to extract those insights without having a way to “slice and dice” the numbers. 

This is why our app assigns each article a “topic,” a label that provides an instant understanding of that article’s content. 

Say you want to hone in on coverage about hiring and workplace benefits – perhaps to see which outlets get high readership on the subject, or how your share of readership compares to competing employers. You can filter by topic in the app, in this case Business News – Hiring, Wages, Benefits, and view readership stats specific to this theme. 

Or conversely, if a topic is creating a lot of noise in your media coverage, you can filter it out to focus on the readership data most relevant to you. Pretty handy, right?

This month, we’re excited to release a new machine learning-powered classification system that improves both the categorization process and the topic taxonomy. 

We’re calling this launch “universal topics.” And while a faster, more consistent topic schema might not seem flashy, I promise that it’s an actual game changer for surfacing deeper readership insights at scale. Here are the details:

Memo’s article topics are built for how PR & Comms teams view media coverage

Unlike tools that generalize the subject of a piece of content, Memo tags articles with topics that are relevant to the coverage categories PR & Comms teams think about every day. An article about the new iPhone wouldn’t just be “consumer electronics” or “iPhone.” Rather, Memo might label it Product – Launch – iPhone 14 so that the user knows this was product-related press about the launch of the new iPhone.

Universal topics follow a pattern of Primary Topic (all) – Secondary Topic (most) – Tertiary Topic (some). For many longtime Memo users, these labels will look familiar. Here’s how the taxonomy works:

First, every article is assigned one of 13 possible Primary Topics:

  • Advice: How-to, instructional, and advice-driven articles
  • Business News: Corporate news, earnings coverage, executive news, etc.
  • Celebrity: Celebrity interviews, paparazzi coverage, gossip, and partnerships
  • Content Availability: Coverage of how, when, and where to access content
  • Corporate Initiatives: ESG-related initiatives by companies
  • Deals & Promos: Sales announcements and promotional offers
  • Event: Summits, conferences, sporting events, awards ceremonies, etc.
  • Human Interest: Feature stories that portray people in an emotional way
  • Incident: Coverage of crimes, deaths, cyberattacks, etc.
  • Industry Trends: General industry news and commentary
  • Issue: Coverage of large societal issues
  • Product: News about a company’s products, including launches and reviews
  • Merchandising: Articles promoting the availability of retail goods

Content and industry nuances are captured with subtopics

Once the Primary Topic has been identified, most articles will receive a Secondary Topic, and some will receive a Tertiary Topic. 

For certain Primary Topics, there are finite lists of corresponding Secondary Topics. All of the possible Secondary Topics for Business News, for example, are the following: 

  • Business News – Earnings 
  • Business News – Expansion
  • Business News – Hiring, Wages, Benefits
  • Business News – Leadership
  • Business News – M&A & Partnerships
  • Business News – Stocks & Markets
  • Business News – Thought Leadership

For other Primary Topics, there are infinite Secondary Topics. For instance, the primary topic Event has endless possibilities. In these cases, we use machine learning to pull out named entities that identify the specific event. An article that discusses the Emmy awards will be labeled Event – Emmy Awards. An article about the Academy Awards will be labeled Event – Academy Awards.

The primary topic Product is a combination of finite and infinite: the Secondary Topics are always either News, Review, Launch, or Roundup. Then we use entity extraction to pull a custom Tertiary Topic, typically the name of the product. So an article titled “Apple Launches iPhone 14 and 14 Plus” would be categorized as Product – Launch – iPhone 14.

The new topic schema enables easier readership analysis

A major benefit to the newly launched topic conventions is that the consistent structure makes it easier for brands to hone in on the coverage they care about for a given analysis.

In the iPhone example above, a brand like Apple could zoom in on iPhone 14 launch coverage to measure the readership of that campaign; they could look at the entire product news cycle for the iPhone 14 (the launch, product reviews, product promos, etc) to track readership over time; or they could compare all product launches across different devices to find the best outlets for the next device launch.

Imagines of Memo's readership dashboard filtering by different topics
Consistent topic hierarchies and naming conventions make it easier for Memo users to filter for different types of coverage.

Universal topics balance article fidelity with industry flexibility 

Previously, topics were assigned at the brand level, meaning an article’s topic might differ across accounts. 

By acknowledging that the topic of the article is a singular entity, universal topics create more value by prescribing an identity to that article, rather than assigning a topic in the context of the account’s dashboard. 

The launch of Brand tags in our platform in 2021 (labels that indicate which brands are included in an article) removed the need to clarify the brand context in articles with topics. In the past, for instance, when an article only mentioned an account’s keywords in passing, Memo assigned it the topic Mention. While that is the context of the article in relation to the brand, it doesn’t actually tell us anything about the contents of the article! 

With universal topics, each article’s topic is a direct representation of what that article is about. As described above, Secondary and Tertiary Topics provide more detailed entity information to make the topic relevant to the industry and brand. Altogether, this structure ensures consistency in reporting and allows Memo to provide deeper insights at scale.

Universal topics are also processed faster with new AI models

An added benefit to this launch is a standardized delivery time of the topic assignments. The granular customization at the brand level was possible with our legacy keyword-based topic assignment system, but it posed a hurdle as we migrated to more advanced, scalable machine learning models. And frankly, it took a long time to process.

Now, when you log into the dashboard first thing in the morning, all of the articles for the previous day will have a topic in addition to readership, every time! No more waiting for updates at 12pm EST or later. 

We have been working hard over the past several months to revamp our topic system, and we are so excited to share these improvements with our clients. The scalability of this system paves the way for deeper and faster insights, reports, and product features – so this is just the beginning.

Takeaways from this year’s PR Measurement & Data Summit

“Our industry is always trying to justify its value. As it turns out, that value has been hiding in plain sight.” 

With these words, Memo Chief Customer Officer Karlie Santucci concluded her lightning talk to a room of 100 PR professionals who convened for the industry’s annual Measurement & Data Summit, presented by PRNEWS. 

The topic of Karlie’s presentation, “Measuring the Value of Earned Media,” was top-of-mind for attendees. Throughout the full-day summit last Thursday, speakers reiterated the importance of tying PR and Communications to larger business and marketing objectives. 

But evaluating how those PR/Comms activities impact outcomes has historically been a challenge. Here are what some of the industry’s brightest had to say:

PR measurement takeaway #1: Better measurement lets us re-examine how we value earned media

To start, we’re surrounded by signals that earned media is highly valuable. CEOs attributing PR for their success on earnings calls. CMOs championing earned media as crucial to marketing programs. $17 billion spent annually on PR in the US (an investment that would not be made were it not producing value).

Memo MRV slide 1: The business value of earned media is more clear

But quantifying this value remains a challenge, and faulty attempts like AVE didn’t help the cause. 

Today, better measurement lets us re-examine how we value earned media. Here’s how:

  • For a given article, we know 1) its total number of readers, and 2) how those readers came to that article (e.g. from a Facebook post, Google search, a newsletter, etc).
Memo MRV slide 2: Memo reports how many people read articles
  • Think of that article – a great piece of press about your brand that you’d want eyeballs on – as a landing page.
Memo MRV slide 3: If we think of an article as a landing page, how much would marketing spend to drive readers?
  • What would it cost a marketing team to drive the same number of readers to that page with paid media? For readers who came via Facebook, marketers would have to buy Facebook ads at an average of $1-4/click depending on the industry. For readers from Google Ads, marketers would pay about $3-8/click depending on the industry.
Memo MRV slide 4: We know the ad rates for industries because they're available in ad platforms
  • MRV (Memo Readership Value) assigns industry-specific ad rates to article readership based on how each reader discovered that article, providing a paid-media value for the engagement that was earned by PR/Comms.
Memo MRV slide 5: MRV assigns a dollar value to earned media

This method doesn’t capture the full value of earned media. It doesn’t account for the deep engagement on an article (80 seconds on average!) or the halo effect of a great story.

But this method evens the playing field between PR and Marketing measurement, making it easier to translate earned results into tangible numbers.

Memo MRV slide #6

This method, “Memo Readership Value” (MRV), is how Memo assigns a paid-media dollar value to earned readership. Doing so allows Comms teams to defend PR budgets, justify and grow headcount, and finally put earned and paid measurement on an even playing field.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Memo can harness readership for your organization, schedule a demo to learn more.

PR measurement takeaway #2: PR/Comms can no longer be siloed from Marketing, in planning or measurement

Capital One’s Julia Schroeder set the tone when she kicked off the summit keynote emphasizing that Comms KPIs should be grounded in marketing goals. 

In a panel titled “State of PR Measurement & 2023 Trend Preview,” Ketchum’s Mary Elizabeth Germaine noted that the expectation from clients is that PR data is included in the broader marketing mix, and Dan Roberti added that ADL’s Comms and Marketing results are presented in a single, combined report. 

Gaetan Akinrolabu demoed the integrated dashboard Mirati uses that combines the company’s owned, earned, social, and paid metrics – all pulled in from various teams’ tooling.

And no one spelled it out more bluntly than measurement consultant Katie Paine:  “Don’t be in a situation where marketing is perceived as more valuable than earned because they have better measurement.”

Fortunately, as Karlie said, accurate metrics like readership and MRV put earned and paid measurement on an even playing field. Marketing can report 20M website visits, Comms can report 20M article readers, and the results of the two functions can be evaluated fairly.

PR measurement takeaway #3: AVE is long dead, but the industry hasn’t figured out what to do with impressions

AVE (Ad Value Equivalency) was barely mentioned during the summit. When it was, it was as a “nonsensical” attempt to assign value to earned media – another reason why Karlie’s walkthrough of MRV (Memo Readership Value) was so refreshing. 

The role that impressions/potential reach/UVMs should play in PR measurement, however, was more ambiguous.

One team at the summit said they only use impressions as a proxy for publication authority. Most admitted to including them in reporting, but not giving them much credence. And one team monitored impressions regularly, dividing them by 30 in search of a more “accurate” daily view. 

Parting thoughts: If PR/Comms needs to work with marketing, it also needs to measure like marketing

No matter how you slice it, any PR measurement that incorporates impressions will be incredibly misleading. Article readership varies widely within a publication. A uniform metric like impressions masks the major wins and opportunities of a PR program. And it makes it impossible to translate earned-media performance into numbers aligned with marketing reporting.

Everyone agreed last Thursday that PR and Communications should have a seat at the table with Marketing. But in 2022, when readership is readily available and much more insightful, we need to break free of the inertia that keeps PR and Communications measurement so siloed.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Memo can harness readership for your organization, schedule a demo to learn more.

Why social media has broken social listening, and how to fill the gaps

Key takeaways:

  • Social platforms that once served up a silver platter of data on earned-media engagement have deprioritized news articles.
  • With often <10% of article traffic originating from social media – and little correlation between the two – social listening is a misleading proxy for article readership.
  • It’s time to rethink the role of social listening for Comms and Marketing, and find new data sources to fill the gaps.

23% of U.S. adults use Twitter.

And among them, just 10% are responsible for 92% of Tweets.

It’s a surprising finding coming from the Pew Research Center, but should I be so shocked given my own habits? I have a Twitter account that I use for some aggressive lurking, but never Tweeting. When I want to share an article I found on Facebook, I usually copy the link and fire it off in group texts or Slack channels. I might like the occasional post from a brand on Instagram, but I’m acutely aware of the activity my friends, family, and ex-boyfriends can see on the platform. While I wouldn’t go so far to call myself the norm, that Pew study suggests I’m not an exception either. 

With so much engagement on brand content happening outside of social channels – and with the engagement inside those channels driven by the vocal minority – what role does social listening serve for Comms and Marketing teams? To understand where social listening can continue to provide valuable intel, we first need to dissect where it’s no longer relevant in 2022:

The days of measuring earned media performance with social are waning.

There was a time when the only datapoint we had for quantifying article performance was potential impressions (i.e. the publication’s unique monthly visitors). So when news content exploded on Facebook and Twitter, it’s no surprise that PR & Comms teams flocked to social listening tools to report actual engagement with articles posted to feeds – finally a more tangible metric!

But news content just doesn’t have the same prominence it did a decade ago on social media. When analyzing our users’ press, Memo’s Insights team often finds that social referred less than 10% of an article’s traffic (organic search, email, aggregators, and the publication’s own website are more common traffic drivers).

Most articles about these brands received less than 10% of their traffic from social media channels over a 28-day period.

With Facebook and Instagram emphasizing creator content over posts from your followers, and with Meta further confirming it will no longer pay publications for content in the News tab, the decline in news readership from social media is likely to continue.

Social engagement on an article isn’t even directionally indicative of readership.

Measuring the performance of news content via social engagement is incredibly misleading: the number of likes/shares/comments an article receives is not directional to how many people actually read that article. 

To illustrate, take the below mapping of social engagement (vertical axis) against article readership (horizontal axis) for 600 articles about a large fast food restaurant. There is no discernible trend that defines the relationship between how much engagement an article receives on social media and how many times that article is actually read. (Technically the correlation coefficient here is 0.18, so a very weak positive relationship.)

Many highly read articles have low social engagement – not surprising given how little traffic social often refers to articles.

Conversely, some articles have high social engagement but relatively low readership – also not surprising given that users share articles without reading them (usually on hot-button issues) and the proliferation of spam bots.

This unpredictability in how users interact with news content on social media is also driven by changes to the platforms themselves – changes that have implications to marketing more broadly. 

Beyond PR, platform changes have also made social listening a less valuable signal for marketers.

The social media landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. “TikTok says it’s an ‘entertainment platform.’ Snapchat calls itself a ‘camera company.’ Meta says it’s a ‘metaverse’ company. The era in which social networking served as most users’ primary experience of the internet is moving behind us,” to quote Axios’ Sara Fischer, who was in turn summarizing Scott Rosenberg’s article “Sunset of the social network.”

Platforms that once served up a silver platter of data on consumer trends, brand relevance, and news engagement are moving away from the user experiences that facilitated this centralized measurement. Public news feeds are giving way to private groups and messaging channels; posts authored by connections are being supplanted by creator content; and short-form videos are the future.

Even Twitter, the most accessible platform to social listening tools, is in flux: it has yet to find a sustainable business model and is one acquisition away from an overhaul of its own. Until then, discourse is skewed to a minority of users (the 10% of power Tweeters), and politically biased (over two-thirds of those users identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents). 

This isn’t to say social listening doesn’t have value; we just need to acknowledge its gaps.  

We need to be more judicious about what we rely on social for, and where we supplement gaps with other data. I’ve already discussed the shortcomings of using social listening to measure earned-media engagement, so let’s take another use case:

Using Twitter as a barometer for brand health, for example, can easily over-index on the negative. Among the 90% of infrequent Tweeters, how many emerge only to @ an airline for missing luggage or air some other grievance in hope of rectification? If Twitter is for complaining, it can certainly help measure threats to brand health, but it will overlook the engagement happening outside the platform with more positive brand stories.

And we need other data sources to reveal the trends that social listening can no longer surface.

There’s a trove of content about brands that people engage with everyday online: articles in the press. And unlike social platforms – where most activity is public to at least a group of followers – engagement with articles is often private. Readership is free of participation bias, virtue signaling, and algorithm manipulation. It’s an honest signal for the stories and brands that consumers are interested in and, for the first time, it’s finally measurable.

How to roll out readership in your Comms org: 9 tactics from Memo customers

“Data like readership is for the Comms team of the future. A change not for the unambitious – and a challenge to the status quo that has eclipsed PR for decades.” –CCO, Fortune 500 company


How can I convince the data skeptics in our group to track readership? How do we send campaign reports with thousands of readers when executives are used to millions of impressions? How have other customers introduced this new metric?

You’re not alone. We’ve heard it all. From the most data-hungry communications teams to groups just getting their measurement practice off the ground, all Memo customers share the same challenge: adopting a metric of earned-media measurement for which there is no organizational precedent or historical context.

But change is the only constant in life, as the adage goes, and PR measurement is definitely changing. It would be disingenuous to pretend that widely adopting readership is as easy as flipping a switch; most of our customers are global corporations with a complex network of Comms groups and stakeholders to navigate. 

Yet time and time again, we’ve seen our users grow from a core group of early adopters at a brand to an organization-wide audience. Here are 9 ways we’ve seen these customers successfully introduce and report out readership, often in combination with each other. 

The takeaway: Rolling readership out incrementally, leading with insights, and reporting in a way that is aligned with but enhances existing practices is the best way to garner buy-in and adoption.

Introduce readership incrementally (#1-3)

Instead of overhauling their PR reporting from the outset, most teams find success rolling out readership incrementally. This means a select group of people have access to Memo’s platform, and they selectively loop in new team members through various reports. Over time, stakeholders get accustomed to seeing readership regularly and begin to proactively request readership in additional reporting.

Here are the Memo tools we’ve seen leveraged to slowly but steadily disseminate readership: 

#1: Circulate top-read press via daily Readership Emails 

These daily reports of the three top-read headline and non-headline mentions are an easy way to start distributing readership data throughout an organization. There’s no limit on the number of recipients, and we’ve seen these emails balloon from a group of four people in a measurement team to dozens of Comms employees, all the way up to the CCO.

#2: Isolate readership with campaign-specific Flash Reports

Many customers use Flash Reports, which are on-demand readership summaries of specific campaigns or news cycles, as a stepping stone to reporting out readership more broadly.

Flash Reports answer questions that are top-of-mind for a team running a campaign – e.g. How many people did we reach? Which outlets had the biggest impact? How did interest in this news cycle play out over time? – without making them sift through data on coverage that’s not relevant to them.

#3: Dazzle executives with MRV summaries

To combat the common fear that “trading millions of impressions for thousands of readers” will make communicators look worse (it won’t, we promise!), presenting MRV (Memo Readership Value) alongside readership to executives is a great entry point to reframing the value of a reader.

We write more about MRV here, but in brief, it’s a methodology to assign a dollar value to earned readership using paid-media rates in a way made possible with accurate article readership and traffic source data.

Lead with insights (#4-6)

Many customers generate buy-in for readership by showing how easily it lifts the veil on long-held questions and takes the guesswork out of campaign planning. Leading with insights over metrics will help connect the dots between readership and how it can be actioned. Here are some ways to surface these insights:

#4: Report aggregate readership at the outlet level

Definitively answering which outlets and reporters perform best for your campaigns is nothing short of a superpower – and fortunately this intel is readily available in your Memo dashboard. 

Next time you’re tasked with providing strategic guidance on media outreach, filter your coverage for topics related to that campaign and you’ll have a clear view into the most impactful sources:

#5: Share findings and takeaways from Insights Reports

Insights Reports are custom analyses designed to answer key questions on earned-media performance and strategy, and readership has taken these insights to a whole new level (see 10 PR strategy questions finally answered with Insights Reports). 

We’ve witnessed multiple customers get Comms groups hooked on readership by introducing it through insights reporting. Typically, our primary contacts monitor for opportune moments to support analyses and planning with readership. They’ll tell their Memo rep the questions they’re hoping to answer with readership, and our Insights team gets to work. 

#6: Introduce readership within a Reporter Database

Memo’s Reporter Database isn’t just a list of names with the coverage they’ve authored; it’s an entirely new way of helping Media Relations teams prioritize relationship building and outreach. It includes readership on reporters’ articles, tags for frequently covered topics, and summary stats for easy comparison.

Enhance existing reporting (#7-9)

Finally, customers often treat readership as additive in the early days, using it to enhance existing measurement while they allow time to understand the best way to phase out legacy practices.  

#7: Report readership alongside other metrics

One large corporation was not ready to eliminate UVMs from their global reporting, but still wanted to include readership in campaign summaries. So in a global campaign recap, they reported their usual metrics – clip counts, UVMs, social engagement – and introduced a new metric: “verified readers from our new partner, Memo.” 

#8: Report relative performance instead of absolute values

For groups that are anchored on massive impression numbers, it can take time to make readership palatable, especially if those audiences aren’t privy to the insights and context of longtime Memo users. Ways we’ve seen customers report out readership results without readership itself include:

  • % of your brand’s readership driven by a specific article/publication/topic (e.g. “this placement is responsible for 58% of our announcement’s readership”)
  • An article’s readership percentile (e.g. “this placement’s performance is in the 90th percentile for our historical coverage”) 
  • The % of readership your brand received on an outlet relative to competitors (e.g. “Acme Corp had over 2x more readership on Fortune last month than competitors”)

#9: Add “share of readership” to SOV reports

Related to the above, monitoring share of readership amongst competitors, especially when contrasted with share of coverage volume, reveals who is generating meaningful engagement with their press – and is a powerful way to demonstrate why readership provides a more accurate view of media performance.

There’s no silver bullet to transforming a measurement practice overnight, but Memo provides multiple tools (and some wonderful customer success reps) to help you steadily introduce readership and prove the value of more accurate measurement.

5 ways Comms orgs have upgraded media monitoring with Readership Emails

Every morning at 7:30, hundreds of people receive an email that tells them exactly how many people read their top press from the previous day.

On Wednesday afternoons, hundreds more get a snapshot of their most-read articles, publications, and topics from the previous week.

And each month, subscribers receive a broad summary of earned readership trends from the past 30 days.

All of this email reporting was automated in the past month, allowing us to offer upgraded media monitoring and measurement at scale. While Memo’s readership dashboard supports in-depth, exploratory trend analysis, we knew time-strapped Comms teams needed a way to quickly identify the stories, outlets, and competitors that deserve their attention. Readership Emails do exactly that, surfacing top-read mentions and high-level trends to spur further exploration.

Read on to learn more about daily, weekly, and monthly Readership Emails – and how PR & Comms teams are actioning this data every day.

#1: Use daily Readership Emails to surface big wins from current PR campaigns

Each morning, Memo automatically sends subscribers a daily digest of the previous day’s top-read headline and non-headline placements, as well as the most-read articles from the past three days. 

This alert gives Comms teams an easy way to spot campaign wins – an article with great pull through reached a wide audience, a syndicated piece was highly read on regionals in your target market, etc. – and an straightforward report to forward to stakeholders.

#2: Use daily Readership Emails to monitor and mitigate potential crisis stories

Given that social media often refers less than 5% of an article’s traffic (and that social engagement is not predictably correlated to readership), social listening platforms are not reliable for assessing whether a negative story that hasn’t yet blown up could evolve into a crisis situation down the road. To paraphrase one Memo customer: “we already know when a crisis is really bad; we need readership for the simmering stories that may or may not bubble over.”

Monitoring readership on negative articles allows Comms teams to better allocate scarce resources and spokespeople to the trending stories that need their attention, while also providing time-saving clarification on the ones that completely flew under the radar.

#3: Get a pulse check on your share of voice with weekly Readership Emails

Weekly emailed reports include the most-read articles, outlets, and topics over the week for your brand and – for Memo customers who also track competitor readership – a competitive share of voice.

We report out SOV differently and, if we can be so bold, far more accurately. Instead of just looking at share of coverage, we also report share of readership, revealing the competitors that are generating meaningful engagement with their earned media, and through what stories. These weekly reports let Comms teams quickly see if a competitor’s SOV has reached a threshold that warrants further investigation. 

And because weekly reports include competitors’ top-read press, subscribers can see what conversations are working for the competition and quickly devise a plan to participate before public interest moves on. 

#4: Plan for the future with PR results reported in monthly Readership Emails 

Monthly Readership Emails have all of the readership breakdowns included in weekly reports, but over the course of a whole month. Monthly reports give Comms teams an opportunity to step back and answer critical questions as they look to future campaigns. What outlets performed well for my brand that I should continue pitching? What outlets drove high readership for competitors that I should bump up to my priority list? What headlines and topics got the highest readership, and can I incorporate those angles into future campaigns? (All questions that would be impossible to answer with impressions, clip counts, or social listening alone.)

#5: Tie business outcomes to earned media performance with monthly Readership Emails

Monthly reports also provide an opportunity for Comms groups to pull out the performance metrics that marketing, analytics, and finance stakeholders would also want to incorporate into their own business analyses for the month. For example, providing the readership on reviews of a newly launched product to your Marketing team lets them incorporate apples-to-apples data from PR into their marketing mix model. 

When one article gets 10,000 readers and another 1,000,000, it’s not enough to rely on clip counts alone. Readership Emails from Memo are fast becoming an essential part of the Comms tech stack – and they’re now available to all Memo customers.

3 ways brands can use Macro Readership Trends to guide PR strategy

How does our readership compare to other news stories? What events might be drawing attention to (or diverting attention away from) our press? Are there trending topics we should leverage in campaigns?

These were the questions from customers that prompted our team to launch Memo’s first-ever Macro Readership Trends report, a broad look at the stories driving news readership each quarter, with deep-dives into the most impactful articles, outlets, and reporters for each news cycle.

Topics analyzed in Q1 2022 range from tentpole events like the Super Bowl and Oscars, to evolving themes like the future of work and the US economy. As newsworthy stories broke, our team added them to the list to build out an analysis of 15 widely-read topics from January through March across a representative sample of 77 national, lifestyle, business, and sports outlets.* 

Below we highlight some learnings from last quarter’s Macro Readership Trends report and go over three ways PR teams can action this intel. This report is available to all Memo customers, and to anyone who books a demo of Memo’s readership tracking and insights platform.

Use Case #1: Spot the next wave of readership for upcoming PR campaigns

Readership on the topic of inflation was accelerating by the end of March 2022, with the average readership on an article increasing 150% from March 1 to March 31.

Because a large part of this coverage included rising gas prices, one Memo customer proposed incorporating inflation into how it positioned its environmental initiatives. 

Pegging their company’s corporate ESG announcement to a data-proven popular topic in the sustainability sphere could boost interest in what can often be a notoriously difficult subject for brands to garner readership on. 

Use Case #2: Time campaigns for recurring events around peak readership

Coverage of 2022’s NFL playoffs and Super Bowl peaked 12 days before the big game, on February 1. While total readership peaked on this day too, we found that average readership peaked on articles published the day after the Super Bowl, February 14.

High reader interest relative to the number of articles published right after game day presents a huge opportunity next year for brands to roll out final pieces of Super Bowl-related campaign content. Imagine a surprise epilogue on the Budweiser Clydesdale’s annual journey that gets released Monday, when millions of people are actively searching for articles on “Super Bowl ads.”

Understanding how readership plays out over the course of a recurring event – and optimizing campaign timing around days with diminishing article volume but sustained reader interest – can give brands a leg up in the race for attention.

Use Case #3: Get outlet and reporter readership intel from relevant news cycles

The future of work has been an ongoing theme in pandemic- and business-related coverage; our team compiled several Insights reports over the past year to help brands monitor readership trends for their own thought leadership in the space. 

Since the Macro Readership Trends report breaks out the top publications and journalists within each topic tracked, PR teams can see the sources driving readership around WFH policy announcements, the Great Resignation, workplace DE&I, and more – and prioritize media outreach accordingly.

The next quarter’s report is already well underway and will include readership trends on the Grammy Awards, Elon Musk’s Twitter bid, and the Metaverse. Book a demo to receive a copy of the most recent report, and learn more about brand-specific and industry-wide readership intelligence on Memo.


Macro Readership Trends methodology: Memo monitored media coverage of anticipated news cycles (e.g. the Super Bowl, the Oscars), ongoing stories (Covid, inflation, future of work), and notable events (the federal government distributing Covid test kits, celebrity deaths). Queries were built to ensure articles had a strong focus on the topic. Readership for all articles was tracked for the first seven days of publication. Articles were monitored across the same 77 national, business, lifestyle, and sports outlets for all topics.

Finding value where others have not: PR’s Moneyball moment

“If we try to play like the Yankees in here, we’re going to lose to ‘em out there.” – Moneyball


What’s the goal? In chess, it’s to checkmate your opponent. In baseball, it’s to win games. In Public Relations, the goals vary – to build awareness, earn trust, drive sales, etc. – but every PR campaign does start with a goal. 

That’s the thing about the goal: it’s the easy part. Once established, the next steps get interesting. What’s the best strategy to achieve the goal? What tools give us the best chance of success? How do we get there? 

In the almost two centuries since the first ball players started playing baseball, the goal has remained the same but the game has changed drastically. What once began as a backyard game with a yarn-and-leather ball and a bat made from excess lumber, is now a multibillion-dollar industry with 100 MPH fastballs, acrobatic catches, and more data generated from a single pitch than could be stored on the computer that took us to the moon.

But one simple truth that hasn’t changed is that there are big-market teams and small-market teams, each with a corresponding budget to manage its roster. Every team has the same access to the MLB draft, but as players perform better and win, they command a bigger payday. As is often the case, All-Stars and MVP’s sign big contracts with large market teams, leaving the small market teams to go back to the drawing board and rebuild.

So what can the small-market teams do? There’s a famous line in the based-on-a-true-story movie Moneyball, where the Oakland A’s are trying to figure out how to replace their All-Star first baseman Jason Giambi, who they just lost to the deep-pocketed Yankees. As the coaches review their options, it becomes clear that there isn’t another Giambi out there. Even if there were, the A’s couldn’t afford him. Over the chatter of disappointment, General Manager Billy Beane remarks, “if we try to play like the Yankees in here, we’re going to lose to ‘em out there,” pointing to the empty ballpark. 

Billy wanted to win. That was his goal. Billy (along with assistant Paul DePodesta) figured out that in order to win, his strategy couldn’t be to buy players; he needed to buy wins. In order to buy wins, he needed to buy runs. 

Billy knew the A’s weren’t the Yankees. But if they could use sophisticated statistics to put together a roster of players that consistently got on base and put runs on the scoreboard, the A’s could be a contender. By looking at draft picks through this lens and bringing in players that the rest of the league had undervalued, the A’s might actually make the playoffs. That’s exactly what they did, and the advanced data analysis whose usage they pioneered still drives strategy in the MLB today.

I think about Moneyball a lot when I think about what we’re doing at Memo. There will always be opportunities to buy a big splashy ad or hire a top-tier influencer if your wallets are deep enough. But does that always achieve the goal? Even so, is that a sustainable approach? 

The good thing is, it doesn’t matter. Whether you’re a Fortune 100 or a nimble startup, new data means the PR playbook is changing – you just have to start thinking like Billy Beane. Instead of aiming for volume of press hits, aim for volume of readership. Instead of optimizing for potential reach, optimize for real reach. Instead of monitoring passing likes on social, monitor true engagement with an article. Memo’s publisher-direct readership data enables all of this.

No matter the goal of your PR campaign, readership provides the north star to what’s resonating, what’s not, and how to build a roster of tactics that others in your field have overlooked. 

Baseball isn’t played with scrap yarn and lumber anymore, and the PR function of tomorrow won’t look like the PR function of today. Memo is here to help you change the game.