A brief history of media monitoring (and analysis)

by | Feb 26, 2016 | Analysis, Media Monitoring

Keeping an ear to the ground. Knowing which way the wind is blowing. Having your finger on the pulse.

Whether you’re an industry leader or leader of men, the knowledge of what’s being said about you and yours, by whom, and in what capacity is invaluable. And it always has been.

Media monitoring is a tool like any other and, used properly, can yield highly beneficial results. But while communications professionals looking for media monitoring and analysis in 2016 can subscribe to a SaaS solution and be up and running quickly, it wasn’t always this way:

  • 1790s – George Washington, a victim of near constant attacks in the press ━ the freedom of which he helped enshrine in the Constitution ━ is said to have kept his nose firmly planted in the newspapers of the day, scouring them for any mention of him from the pen of his political enemies (of which he had plenty).
  • 1852 – The world’s first media monitoring service is founded in London by a newsagent named Romeike. After noticing many artists regularly browsing his stock for mentions of themselves, he realized that he could do this kind of work for them and turn a profit at the same time.
  • 1879 – The idea of media monitoring spreads, as Alfred Cherie founds L’Argus de la presse, an outfit similar to but more professional than Romeike’s. Like the Londoner, he saw how many actors were flooding his shop in search of reviews of their work. In response, the enterprising Cherie began clipping relevant reviews and assembling booklets of coverage actors could purchase instead of buying multiple newspapers.
  • 1940s – Not to take lessons from the Soviets, but in the years immediately following the Second World War, it was their practice throughout Eastern Europe to monitor media outlets for public opinion vis-à-vis the occupying force, ie. them. Radio employees were tasked with keeping track of all correspondence to the station, counting how many pieces of mail were devoted to particular subjects and carefully measuring whether the numbers of negative letters was rising or falling. And though it hasn’t been academically confirmed, there are theories that the Soviet Union only collapsed because the regime stopped listening. (Note: this is an attempt at facetiousness and is clearly untrue.)
  • 1960s – Press clipping agencies and services around the world begin experimenting with audio and video recorders to monitor radio and television broadcasts, which are then transcribed and delivered to the client.
  • 1970s – Agencies evolve from simple monitoring of the media to also offering analysis of the data generated by that coverage. One such innovator, a firm called PR Data, becomes the first to use simple computer programming to do so.
  • 1990s – The Internet has been a catalyst for change within many industries, and media monitoring was no different: The platform for hosting information was suddenly apparently limitless. Media monitoring agencies responded by moving away from physically cutting and pasting into media books, instead using new digital technologies to provide their services. Later in the decade, firms begin monitoring online news sources directly, further expanding their service abilities.
  • 2003 – MediaMiser launches Enterprise, and becomes one of the earliest companies to introduce a software-as-a-service solution to monitor online sources, as well as traditional print and broadcast outlets. Social media monitoring would soon follow.

With the birth and growth of a free and massive media machine came the need to digest all that information. In the beginning that need was answered by individuals, who were soon replaced by small agencies and even governments.

And though times ━ and the complexity of media monitoring requirements, including competitive analysis and nuanced sentiment analysis ━ have certainly changed, the foundation of media monitoring hasn’t all that much. The tenets underlying the trade are the same as ever: track all mentions of keywords in order to ascertain who is saying what, where, and with the most clout. The reasons for heeding its results, too, have not changed.

But whereas monitoring has traditionally been a labourious job ━ with people forced to devote endless hours to scanning and searching, literally cutting and pasting ━ programs like MediaMiser’s patented software have taken it to a more efficient and precise level, cutting out many hours of painstaking manual research.

Romeike and Cherie would no doubt be impressed with how far media monitoring (and analysis) has come.


Talk with one of MediaMiser’s media monitoring and analysis experts to find out how leading companies in your industry use media monitoring to get ahead of their competition. 

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Marcus Kaulback

Marcus is a content creator and marketer with a focus on branding and communications.

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