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Traditional and New Media in Class Action Notice - The State of Play

FALL 2011

  • Alicia Gehring & Maureen Gorman

As the Internet is increasingly used for communication, entertainment, news and information gathering, class action attorneys frequently ask how the evolving media landscape is affecting our approach to notice: “Surely, the Internet is all you need nowadays?” Well, not quite.

While consumers are integrating new media options into their life, they haven’t abandoned traditional media sources and habits. In fact, as recent news events have demonstrated, consumers get their information from multiple sources, turning their attention to different media types at different times and for varied reasons. For example, when Twitter feeds rumored the death of Osama Bin Laden, consumers turned on their televisions to verify the rumors. The next day, many picked up copies of daily newspapers to get the expanded, in-depth story.

Because there are so many media options, more than one media type is usually required to reach a broad, mass audience. Integrated media programs are more important than ever to reach the widest number of people. Even Google, a dominant Internet brand, uses a traditional media approach to drive more traffic to their search engine by running a newspaper ad campaign featuring “Google-a-day” puzzles. When planning media programs for class action notice, we take the benefits and disadvantages of each media type into consideration, along with the demographics and media habits of class members.

Here are important facts about traditional and new media that influence the design of class action notice programs:

Print media remains a dominant source of information for many adults. 

  • Half of all adults read a newspaper on most days.1 Despite the circulation declines and business setbacks that the newspaper industry has suffered in recent years, newspapers are still widely read. The typical newspaper reader is an adult 35 or older.2 Younger adults are slow to adopt the daily newspaper reading habits of their parents, but more than 30% of Adults 25-34 still read a Sunday newspaper each week.3

  • Magazines continue to have faithful followers who give undivided attention to their content. The average adult reads about 11 magazine issues a month and on average, people spend 42 minutes with a magazine issue.4 Among all media—digital or analog—magazine readers are less likely to engage in another activity while reading.5

Consumers spend more time with TV than with any other medium.

  • In fact, 47% of adult media usage is television.6 The average household has two or three sets, and over 80% of consumers pay for added channel choices through cable or satellite services.7 Nielsen surveys indicate TV set usage totals eight hours a day per household.8

Internet reach is very fractionated, posing hurdles to mass reach but allowing a range of delivery mechanisms.

  • More than 150 million adults in the U.S. go online each day, and view over 17 billion web pages.9 Visitors spend an average of 42 seconds on a page online.10 Despite enormous online usage, with over 300 million websites,11 the ability to accumulate mass reach with an exclusively online ad campaign is nearly impossible. In fact, because of the sheer volume of sites, most reach a relatively small number of consumers. Building significant reach exclusively online can be exorbitant, if possible at all.

  • The advance of new devices to access the Internet provides customized access but further fragments media consumption. Mobile Internet access, via phones and laptops, is expected to overtake desktop computer access in about five years.12 Today, about 37% of mobile users access the Internet at least once a month through a mobile device,13 so the potential to reach mass audiences remains low. Even so, as mobile phones advance to smart phones and laptops shrink to tablets, consumers will rapidly explore new information channels. The development of each new device will create another niche in media usage to be considered.

Each form of media provides a different type of ad exposure with unique attributes.

  • Online notice advertising consists of text and banner ads (also known as “display” advertising) containing headlines about the case that allow users to click through to the case website to get more information. In addition to display advertising, text ads may be used to help facilitate search engine users’ access to a case website, through sponsored results.

  • Online, consumers open their browsers and a webpage unfolds on the computer screen with the page images visible only to that visitor. However, an ad placed in a magazine or newspaper offers the medium’s full audience an opportunity to see the notice, and has a tangible shelf life with multiple opportunities for pass-along readers. Online banners rotate among websites, and are therefore transient and cannot be retrieved on a future visit. But they do offer instant access to case websites with a simple click of the mouse and can be seen on a range of portable devices.

  • Television notice is intrusive with sound and visuals conveying important information in 30 seconds and usually prompting immediate response. Like online advertising, it is also transient. Certain demographic groups can be reached cost-effectively through cable and broadcast, but mass reach through television can be expensive.

Social media provides promising notice options, but has limitations.

  • Facebook can be an efficient online ad vehicle for certain demographics. Among adults, Facebook’s heaviest users are women 18-34.14 Facebook users love Facebook; they visit frequently and spend more time with the Facebook site than with other web publishers.15 Facebook has over twice as many page views as Yahoo.16 However, as with many other online media options, achieving mass reach can be very expensive on Facebook. For example, the cost to reach 40 million readers of Better Homes & Gardens is approximately $165,000, but to reach 40 million unique users of Facebook would cost $270,000.

  • In 2010, Twitter announced “promotional tweets” where companies could push out messages to promote specials, new products or upcoming events. However, this and other ad products are still in testing and not open for use. Currently, a notice message using Twitter would involve the site’s standard 140-character “Tweets.” In order for Tweets to generate word of mouth, a “Tweeter” has to already have followers. This is akin to a press release aimed at generating media coverage, since the audience cannot be known in advance, and the Tweet may generate no results at all.

Large-scale consumer class actions have to take into account the media consumption of the entire class. A notice plan must provide coverage of whatever the demographic segments are within a class often including a variety of ages, incomes, education levels, races and ethnicities. There are pronounced differences in media usage by different demographic groups. Younger people are increasingly adopting new media and technologies, while older adults continue to heavily use traditional media.17

To adequately reach a mass consumer class, the optimal mix of media needs to strike a balance between cost efficiency and reach effectiveness in determining the use of new and old media. For most national cases, the largest percentage of reach will still come from traditional offline media. But as new media give birth to revolutionary communication possibilities, KM will continue to look at answering old questions from different angles.


1    GfK MRI Spring 2011. GfK MRI Studies are based on GfK MRI’s national Surveys of the American Consumer, conducted since 1979, which survey people 18 years of age and older in the contiguous 48 states. GfK MRI conducts more than 26,000 personal interviews with consumers in two waves annually, each lasting six months and consisting of 13,000 interviews. Data are released from the Spring and Fall surveys and rolled in the annual Doublebase Study. The Doublebase Study consists of two full years of data drawn from over 50,000 survey respondents. Consumer information is recorded on 500 product/service categories, 6,000 brands, and various lifestyle activities. Respondents are selected based on the ability to project their responses nationally. The survey results are sample-based. Therefore, estimates of audience and/or demographics from these surveys are subject to sampling and non-sampling error. The use of mathematical values from those surveys should not be regarded as a representation that they are exact to the precise mathematical value stated.

2     Id.

3     Id.

4     GfK MRI Fall 2010; The Association of Magazine Media, Magazine Handbook 2011/12, p. 6, available at (last visited June 22, 2011).

    See Magazine Handbook, at 15.

    GfK MRI Media Day 2010.

7     GfK MRI Doublebase 2010.

8     The Nielsen Co., Average TV Viewing for 2008-09 TV Season at All-Time High, available at (last visited July 5, 2011).

9     comScore Data: March-May 2011. comScore, Inc. is a source of Internet audience measurement for advertising agencies, publishers, marketers, and financial analysts. comScore measures Internet usage and other activity through monitoring software installed on the computers of a panel of approximately 2,000,000 people. Active in 170 countries, comScore tracks more than 3 million unique websites. Panel-based surveys are subject to minimum reporting standards and not all surveyed websites will meet these standards.

10     Id.

11     Netcraft, April 2011 Web Server Survey, available at (last visited July 5, 2011).

12     Press Release, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ITU sees 5 billion mobile subscriptions globally in 2010 (Feb. 15, 2010).

13     GfK MRI Spring 2011 Survey.

14     comScore Data: May 2011. Based on total minutes of use.

15     Id.

16     Id.

17     GfK MRI Spring 2011.


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