[responsive][/responsive]It’s been an ongoing struggle in the industry since the advent of digital publishing: How can a magazine effectively measure its readership across digital platforms?
The reason this is critical comes down to ad rates, with more eyeballs on the copy equaling higher base rates for advertisers. Until now, the official measures have come from print and digital subscription and sales figures.
It’s not surprising the industry is anxious to count the digital hits, and will welcome the news of MPA’s measurement index that launches today.
“Mary G. Berner, president and chief executive of MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, said the new monthly system, Magazine Media 360, would measure audience engagement for print and for digital editions and video across desktop and mobile devices,” writes Leslie Kaufman in The New York Times. “It will also capture data for five social media networks, although those will be reported separately.”
“Given the success of many magazine brands on those new platforms, continuing to rely on print circulation and ad paging to determine demand for magazine media would be like measuring the viewership of the Super Bowl exclusively based on the people who watched it in the stadium,” Berner says.
Berner is keen to include digital readership in broad sweeps, noting that you can’t sell what you can’t measure in an interview with Jeffrey Trachtenberg in The Wall Street Journal.
True, many brands are getting good exposure on digital channels, and we believe that a way to measure all of this is probably a good thing. Yet we are mystified as to what the MPA now considers a “magazine.”
As magazine publishers become media brands, can we really call the stream of digital content a magazine? In our minds, those pieces of content are excerpts, separate bits, like a page torn out from a print magazine and tacked up on a bulletin board.
More importantly, is the digital reader who “liked” a post on Facebook as valuable to the publisher as a subscribed customer to the print magazine? The level of engagement can’t be compared in any real depth, and do we water down our results by painting all “eyes” with the same broad brush?
And much like watching the Superbowl on TV, much is lost in the translation from any content’s native format. No matter how good the definition on my HDTV, there is truly nothing to compare with being in the seats, and that market will continue to pay premium prices for the premium experience. A larger question is all of this discussion speaks to the value of the readers themselves. Is a digital reader who “liked” a post on Facebook as valuable to the publisher as a subscribed customer to the print magazine? The level of engagement can’t be compared in any real depth, and do we water down our results by painting all “eyes” with the same broad brush?
We’ll be interested to see the new measurement reports from MPA. Any progress in making measurements more accessible will bring insights to the industry. But advertisers should be clear on what they are buying when they purchase ads on digital channels rather than in a print magazine. The experience is clearly not the same, as disappointing digital sales revenue reports have shown.
Print magazine advertising has a cachet and timelessness all its own, and advertisers do understand the difference.