SYDNEY: A simmering dispute over Australian readership figures has escalated with a claim that the new EMMA metric could end up "killing" newspapers and magazines.

This assertion came from Michele Levine, head of Roy Morgan, the market research firm which has traditionally supplied readership data, as she questioned the EMMA results compiled by Ipsos.

"The numbers are bouncing around a lot," she told Ad News, as she warned that the current volatility could endanger the future of print.

The variance between the two is significant, as estimated newspaper readership is up to 55% higher and magazine figures as much as 102% higher using the EMMA metric compared to Roy Morgan's totals.

"The way the industry is going, it won't be worth measuring newspapers," Levine declared. "EMMA is killing them [with] publisher-claimed numbers.

"When the market loses confidence [in the numbers] it will kill newspapers faster than anything else," she added.

Her remarks came as two media agencies – Match Media and Mediabrands – announced they were signing up to EMMA. But both, at least for now, will also continue to take Roy Morgan's data.

John Preston, head of Match Media, said the business had an arrangement with Roy Morgan that ran until August, and that "gives us a good window to determine whether they can be complementary or whether one is better for our client mix and needs".

Ipsos's tactics have included training agency staff on the new system and providing free access to its data for several months, an approach that has reportedly led some agencies to shorten their contracts with Roy Morgan.

But Levine claimed the opposite, saying "we have more clients on long term contracts than ever before", a development she attributed to the fact that "we are partnering with them on data integration, not just doing a readership survey and publishing the numbers".

Data sourced from Ad News; additional content by Warc staff