The Guardian reports that the Conservative Party have unearthed that the spending by the various arms of the UK government on ‘media monitoring’ – ie finding out what people are saying about them – reached the sum of £16 million pounds over the last three years.
Whitehall departments alone spend more than £11m on outside media monitoring companies, including £2.7m in the last financial year.
Quangos including the Arts Council for England, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, have spent another £2.248m.
The Conservatives pointed to the fact that the government has its own in-house monitoring service, which employs 19 staff and costs £1m a year to run.
The full cost of media monitoring is likely to be even higher, however, because the figures exclude two of the biggest government departments, the Department of Health and the Department of Work and Pensions.
ØThe Conservatives said the two departments refused to provide details of their respective spending because it was deemed to be "commercially sensitive".
That does sound like rather a lot of money to be spending. The quote above does mention COI’s own media monitoring service (see towards the bottom of this page) which I am sure is an awful lot cheaper than commercial alternatives.
Another way of cutting down on this sort of cost, of course, is to make use of monitoring tools on the web. Alright, subscribing to a few Google searches on key terms probably won’t replace the efforts of getting an agency to do it, but it surely would help if individual teams within an organisation are monitoring what people are saying online about their work.
After all, with almost all of the mainstream media now making most of their content available on their websites, I wonder just how much stuff would get missed – assuming you were tracking the right stuff?