MPA pushes for better readership, engagement measurement

Magazine Publishers of America has set forth a major initiative to improve measurement of magazine readership and engagement with advertising.

New audience-based metrics in the works include exposure to each issue of a magazine, broken down by demographics such as age, gender, income and ethnicity. MPA also aims to measure engagement with ads — based on recall for individuals spots — on an issue-by-issue basis. Consumer action as a result of the ads will also be measured by issue. MPA will depend on self-reported customer data to show purchase intent and drive to Web.

“A key item was to become faster in our measurement and more comparable to the way other media are measured and more accountable,” said Nina Link, president/CEO of MPA. “It will make it possible for advertisers to buy space based on the number of people who read our magazines — not just the number of copies we distribute — and it will help more accurately convey the value of magazine advertising.”

By improving measurement techniques, MPA leaders hope to be able to report on magazine exposure and engagement within a shorter period of time. The goal for the 200 largest magazines is to have reports done six to eight weeks from distribution date for weeklies and eight to twelve weeks for monthly titles.

Such reports are primarily intended to improve ad sales, but they could also be of use to circulation marketers. Better metrics on consumer interests and buying behaviors should make for more targeted marketing campaigns.

“There really is an interesting benefit to getting a better understanding of how your audience is using your magazine and engaging your magazine above and beyond what you typically might ascertain through subscriber research,” said Scott Crystal, president of TV Guide, which is signed up for the service. “On an issue-by-issue analysis, just think of the benefit of new data that measures issue-by-issue engagement with your editorial product.”

The new measurement system will also make magazine audience reports more comparable to metrics used by other media. In today’s marketplace, where multi-platform packages are quickly gaining traction against single-media brands, comparability across media should prove a boon to ad sales teams.

“From the TV Guide perspective, any new measurement that can help advertisers understand the benefits and the value of the magazine is a positive development,” said Crystal. “It becomes a pretty powerful story for us to take to the advertising community at large, especially because it provides comparability to all the other media that are part of the usual sources of how agencies develop a media mix modeling based plan for their clients.”

“We’re really the only medium that is looked at from a distribution or circulation perspective,” he continued, “so it doesn’t allow for a good apples-to-apples comparison.”

The move to better measurement was born from research undertaken by MPA, the magazine industry, and management consultant firm McKinsey & Company. The three parties have been working together for the past year, conducting discussions with ad clients and agency heads to build the new approach.

“It’s important to note that we had a lot of feedback and input from the advertising community to make sure that it did align with their goals and where they see their business going,” Link pointed out. “We think it will work for them and that it will be a great benefit to publishers as well.”

Going forward, a number of MPA task forces will research ways to improve online survey techniques. Link expects the full transition to take a couple of years.

Additional publishing companies involved in the initiative include Hearst Magazines, Meredith Publishing Group, National Geographic Magazine Group, Hachette Filipacchi Media US and Time Inc.

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