Why Most Magazine Industry Metrics are Bogus, Take Two

PIB revenue defended.

Henry Donahue By Henry Donahue
06/03/2009 -12:41 PM

After last month's blog post on "bogus" magazine metrics, I got reactions ranging from "right on!" (Discover's newsstand consultant) to "why on Earth would you write a negative blog post about media planners?" (our ad sales team).

One of the more interesting responses came from Publishers Information Bureau President Wayne Eadie.  Wayne e-mailed me to expand on their use of rate card revenue (the metric I called "bogus") in addition to page counts:

We have surveyed agencies repeatedly as to what they would like to see reported, and every time they reply that open rate card reporting is their preference. Every agency knows what they are paying every magazine that they deal with. They are best equipped to put the proper "average discount" against the category or title that they are evaluating, and the open rate card rate is the best equivalent starting point for them to treat every title or genre fairly.

He went on to note that advertising agencies, not publishers, provide most of PIB's revenue, so if the agencies say they want to see rate card revenue, then PIB will continue to provide it.

That makes perfect sense to me from the PIB perspective.  PIB has to assume that if agencies are requesting (and paying) for the data, then agency research analysts are doing the extra work to apply an effective discount against each title.

For all I know, this may be true.  From experience, though, it seems more likely that stretched-thin planning teams are relying on the published numbers and trade reports. 

In the past couple of years, PIB has made a couple of moves that demonstrate sometimes less is more.  I find the new quarterly reports more helpful than the old monthly ones, because they provide a clearer picture of the overall trends by title and category.

PIB also recently stopped putting out their "Group Publishers Report" because of concerns about "irresponsible use of the data without proper explanation."  They would do well to undertake a similar reevaluation of the rate card revenue numbers.


Henry Donahue By Henry Donahue -- Henry Donahue is the CEO of Discover Media LLC, the publisher of Discover magazine and Donahue was formerly CFO of Primedia's Lifestyles Magazine Group, a 30-plus magazine division, which included Soap Opera, Crafts, Boating, Equine and History titles.

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