Giving Subscriber Studies Some Teeth
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Few items are as suspect in the eyes of advertisers as a magazine-sponsored subscriber study. If the magazine is paying for the study, why would it release anything other than data that portrays it in a glowing light?
San Francisco-based home magazine Dwell has been able to add some substance (and $100,000 in new advertising) to its own subscriber audits by working with the Audit Bureau of Circulation's Subscriber Profile, which authenticates both the subscriber sample and the subscriber research done by a third-party research firm. "In the past, subscriber studies were not audited and there was really no way to ensure level playing field," says marketing director Laura MacArthur Simkins.
Traditionally, researchers can get reader samples in two ways: by drawing from the magazine's subscriber file or by the magazine pulling a select sample and delivering it to the researcher (the more frequent method). The problem with both methods is the research supplier never knows for sure if the sample is representative of the entire subscriber base. With Subscriber Profile, ABC is responsible for drawing the sample before the fieldwork begins.
There is no list of accredited researchers with the program;the publisher can choose whom they want. ABC follows up to determine that minimum standards;including that the number of completed direct mail questionnaires is no less than 500;are adhered to.
The price range is tiered at five different levels, ranging from $5,000 to $12,500. Publications with higher ad rates fall into the higher tier. Tapping into Subscriber Profile enabled Dwell to not only verify its subscriber research but also work with a more affordable researcher than it had originally been considering. The research helped Dwell win two new advertising accounts worth $100,000 combined.
"ABC does not conduct the research, we're monitoring the field work before research begins, while it's being conducted and after it's finalized for compliance with a minimum of research standards," says ABC director of marketing and sales Kevin Campbell. "This gives the buyer the confidence to use the information rather than saying, "Mr. Publisher, you paid for the research, therefore you paid for the results, how can I use that in confidence?"