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Tracking Advertising Effectiveness in Digital Editions

Web metrics apply here too, but which one is most important remains to be seen.



By Chandra Johnson-Greene
07/27/2009

Most digital magazines are exact replicas of their print counterparts, but how advertisers view their effectiveness may be quite different. The response to digital magazines can be tracked much more closely and quickly, therefore, publishers should be prepared to supply and interpret the audience response data for their clients.

The metrics used to gauge the effectiveness of ads in digital magazines are less like print and more like the Web—open rates, clickthroughs, time spent, page views, etc.—but what metrics are the most important to advertisers?

Mariah Media announced early last year that it would increase the frequency of Outside’s Go with digital issues instead of print starting in 2009. According to managing director Christine Salem, advertiser reaction in general has been enthusiastic.

“When we demo the summer digital-only issue of Go with its embedded video and audio and flash-animation, advertisers immediately get it,” she said. “The added bonus of metrics is really secondary, I think. Most brand advertisers really value magazines, with their curated content, for their power to provide the kind of environment that builds brands. That a curated reader experience can be achieved digitally and, in addition, provide accountability really turns heads.”

Digital magazine company Zinio provides advertisers with Outside’s Go’s open rates, time spent on the entire issue, time spent on each page and pass-along data, as well as actions taken, such as clickthroughs on hyperlinks, and sharing via email or social media. Because the first of issue of Go only went live on June 19, all of the metrics haven’t been tallied. And as far as what metrics will be most important to Go’s advertisers also remains to be seen.

I think our advertisers are only just figuring that out,” Salem said. “Certainly, leads and clickthroughs are the most tangible metrics and will be the ones by which a lot of business will live or die. On the other hand, all those indicators of reader engagement are more subtle, but equally important whether it's a print or digital edition. I think advertisers will also start getting more sophisticated about tracking behaviors like page views and conversions once the reader links through from Go to their Web site.”

Genius Guide Still 'Working Out Details' With Advertisers
For Popular Science’s new digital magazine The Genius Guide, the relationship between publisher and advertiser is a bit different. Instead of being a static replica of a print magazine, The Genius Guide, is fully interactive with original content focused on one topic. Because it was setting a precedent, The Bonnier Corporation had approach advertisers differently.

“We did have our challenges for issue #1,” group marketing director Mike Gallic, said. “Like any good agency doing their homework, advertisers asked ‘How many people are going to see this?’ But being brand new, we couldn’t guarantee that, which was also a concern because advertisers don’t like to jump in. But by the time they saw the finished product, they thought it was awesome. Some of them wished they could go back.”

By issue #2, The Genius Guide had gained enough traction to secure ads by GE, Sears Craftsman and Samsung. “They weren’t afraid to align themselves with us and didn’t require a circ guarantee,” Gallic said, “They believed in reaching the customers, which was a win-win for everybody.”

In addition to metrics—which haven’t been provided just yet, but will be shared with clients once The Genius Guide hits critical mass—PopSci will also share with clients the results of a reader survey that will be included in issue #3. “It will tell us about engagement and how much time they spent with it, as well as demographics,” Gallic said.  

While both companies are still working out the details as far has how the data will be interpreted for advertisers, both Gallic and Salem believe that they have nothing but value to gain from aligning themselves with digital editions.

It's all about user preference, really,” Salem said, “and there are so many advantages to digital editions that over time the user base is going to be too large to ignore. Especially when the digital readers come online. Our challenge is to demonstrate to the ad community how a digital magazine is different from a Web site, and to provide hard-hitting survey data on readers of digital magazines. And down the road, syndicated research techniques and circulation audits will play a role. But step one, I think, is for publishers to make an active effort to convert the ad community into readers of digital magazines.”

By Chandra Johnson-Greene
07/27/2009







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