Digital editions, the oft-dubbed “Wild West” of the publishing world, may be charted in the near future. Many publishers are investing large amounts of time and resources to navigating user behavior in tablet editions of magazines, and this data is being used in a variety of ways.
Bonnier is expected to announce that an agency they’re working with is going to recognize the mag+ copies they sell as part of their rate base; mag+ is an initiative now under Moving Media, created by Bonnier for publishers to build tablet editions.
Along with Hearst, Bonnier is reportedly partnering with MediaVest, a full-service media specialist. According to AdWeek, Hearst and Bonnier will give MediaVest audience demographic info, and MediaVest will in turn recommend clients like Kraft and Walmart to advertise in Bonnier and Hearst owned titles.
Publishing giant Conde Nast is going a different way, collaborating with Adobe to aggressively monitor, gather and analyze audience engagement metrics with digital editions; the publisher plans to share their findings not only with their advertising clients, but with the publishing industry as a whole.
Lou Cona, Conde’s chief marketing officer, says, “We’re very transparent in what we’re learning, and we’re going to be inclusive with all our clients. We don’t want to do one-off guarantees; we really want to help the industry standards.”
Scott McDonald, SVP for research and insights at Conde, says that in working with Adobe and Omniture over several months in analyzing user engagement with Conde’s digital offerings, previous notions of engagement were dispelled as naïve assumptions. Because the tagging system created by Omniture for tracking audience behavior is similar to the system utilized for the Web, app metrics were projected to match Web behaviors. McDonald says, “What we’ve been learning through this engagement with Adobe is that they’re really not.”
Some unforeseen factors include users’ finger engagement with the editions, as well as time spent with the edition when the user is not within the app shell. This is particularly problematic for gathering metrics, as there is no way to monitor the time until the reader connects back to the app. The metrics from the time spent in the edition and out of the app are then delivered late, skewing overall results.
Now that Adobe is accredited by the Media Ratings Council, Jared Cook, director of product management, Omniture Business Unit, Adobe, says this will lead to the simplification of standardization in the magazine industry itself.
“The data we collect is cleansed and processed, correcting the known issues that we’ve historically had with the Web; issues like bots, spiders and non-human activity is completely filtered out and not part of [the tablet research],” Cook says.
McDonald says that the majority of metrics for the digital editions are similar to those in place for print and Web engagement. These four stages include distribution (by keeping in step with ABC, Conde Nast is releasing their digital edition circulation for first half to ABC in August, which may encourage other publishers to do the same); exposure numbers, including user action in the digital pages, for copy and advertisement; engagement time, which is said to be more complicated than print or Web measurements; and activation numbers, which McDonald says are harder to gather and will be a greater focus for Conde next year.
Sharing the New Knowledge
Conde is making it a priority to share the learned metrics with advertising clients, as well as the industry itself, in order to promote a standard that is accepted across the board.
For advertisers, user metrics will be shared to not only display how consumers are engaging with client advertisements, but in the categorical whole of the clients’ market.
Reportedly, Apple sold 9 million tablets, and projects the sale of 36 million by years’ end. McDonald and Cona feel that with this type of medium growth, sharing the knowledge of this medium with advertisers is critical.
Conde representatives plan to use forums such as industry committees IDD and the MPA to share newly gained metric knowledge. McDonald also serves as the chairman of the Print and Digital Research Forum, and he plans to use their upcoming four-day conference in October as a platform to share what Conde is learning.
“It’s those kinds of [situations] that you begin building consensus, where people can argue about it in the fresh air and sunlight of open forum,” McDonald says.
Already, Conde’s collaboration with Adobe is resulting in surprising digital edition metrics. Reader demographics are similar in print and digital audiences, but differ in website users. The accumulation curves (which show the rate at which a magazine builds an audience) across a 26-week period are almost identical in digital and print audiences, and there are similar “repeat reading” sessions in print and digital audiences. The time spent in the digital edition, like print, is longer as well, with Web reading taking place in shorter spurts.