Nowadays, market research is being confronted with the new reality of media consumption. Newspapers are no longer merely a printed medium; readers also have access to digital versions on Web sites, tablets, and mobile.

We are facing the major challenge of mapping out all of these media touchpoints as accurately as possible.

Knowing and understanding “digital” terminology and the confusion surrounding it among consumers is a key part of this process.

What does “digital” mean to the man in the street, and do marketeers use the same language as consumers when talking about media use?

De Persgroep wants to gain a clearer insight into this issue, so it kicked off the year by researching what the concept of “digital newspapers” meant to newspaper brand users and how they referred to various touchpoints. A total of 1,376 adult respondents completed the survey.

Misconceptions about the “digital newspaper” concept: Nine out of 10 respondents claim to know what digital newspapers are. However, there are a fair number of misconceptions about what exactly qualifies as a digital newspaper.

  • The first misconception exists among a quarter of participants, who consider newspaper Web sites to be digital newspapers.

  • The second one: Digital newspapers are free of charge. According to one out of four respondents, digital newspapers are freely available to anyone.

  • The third misunderstanding: Digital newspapers are always up to date.

  • The fourth and final misconception: Digital newspaper articles are less in-depth and detailed.

It is, therefore, safe to say that the concept of “digital newspapers” does not mean the same thing to everybody and that we need to take this into account when measuring media use.

Confusion about the use of various platforms: Many participants in this survey are confused about the specific names of the various platforms.

Pictures of a newspaper in all its various incarnations and on the different platforms were shown to both users and non-users, along with the names that we, marketeers and researchers, commonly use in our market research.

Only 14% of all participants in the research selected all of the same words that researchers use to refer to what they saw. Twenty-four percent of them used almost all of the same words. The printed newspaper gave little cause for discussion, but the various digital platforms clearly created confusion.

When a Web site is shown on a laptop, 55% of participants are aware that it is a Web site, 28% call it a digital newspaper, and to 14% it is a mobile Web site or an app.

There is even more confusion when the Web site is shown on a tablet: Only 40% refer to it as a Web site, 34% refer to a digital newspaper, and 24% call it a mobile Web site or an app.

The image of a mobile Web site on a smartphone is clear to nine out of 10 participants: 39% indicate this is a mobile Web site and 49% call it an app — both answers are correct. Nevertheless, 8% still say this is a digital newspaper and, to 3%, this is the Web site.

The results once again show a clear gap between consumer language and marketing language, not only among the general public but also among the users of the different devices themselves.

Age, education, and multi-media equipment affect media knowledge: For the younger generation, using multiple touchpoints is a daily reality, which automatically increases this group’s knowledge of the different platforms.

In the under-45 age group, half of the participants consult their newspaper on at least two different platforms, and one out of five uses three different platforms or more. Among participants older than 60, 67% use only one channel.

It is only logical that the youngest generation knows more about the various platforms, since they also use them more. Fifty-four percent of the youngest group were able to identify virtually all platforms correctly, whereas only 7% of participants older than 60 were able to do so.

The same trend can be observed among multi-channel users: the older they are, the more terminology gets confused.

Another element that is less visible but also important is the level of education. People who are highly educated use multiple devices and also seem to have a better knowledge of “marketing language.”

Having smartphones and tablets also encourages people to use media on these platforms and increases their knowledge of these media.

Conclusions: The research clearly indicates an important point of interest when measuring the different media touchpoints. There is a great deal of confusion among consumers about what the different platforms and the different newspaper consumption possibilities are called.

Younger and more highly educated consumers tend to use the various platforms, know they are connected, and be familiar with what they are called.

It is striking, however, that even many multi-channel consumers are confused and that the terminology used by marketeers does not always correspond to that used by consumers.

This why the different platforms need to be clearly named and explained, preferably backed up by visual aids.