Last fall, Hachette Filipacchi president and CEO and Magazine Publishers of America president Jack Kliger called on the magazine industry to re-examine its performance metrics by asking: "Why should an advertiser care whether a magazine copy is paid or unpaid;or how much or by whom;if it delivers readers who are appropriate targets for their products?"
While that was intended as a rallying cry for an industry plagued with circulation scandals and dwindling newsstand response, it’s not likely many publishers will abandon their own dependence on circulation metrics, especially in the fiercely competitive regional magazine market. In recent years, the regional magazine market has seen competition grow between two different types of regional magazines: traditional regionals;general interest, list oriented, paid circulation;versus the new regionals;upscale, visual-dependent, controlled circulation, published by companies such as Jerry Power’s Ocean Drive, Michael Kong’s Modern Luxury and Jason Binn’s Niche Media. (SEE: Regional Magazine Glut.)
While paid circ regionals largely have been dismissive of the glossy freebies, the new luxe titles have made enough dents in the local ad market to demand a response. Emmis Communications, which publishes behemoth Texas Monthly and 68,177 circ. Atlanta Magazine, falls into the paid circ camp and recently released a study in which it commissioned Monroe Mendelsohn Research to examine how readers in three markets;Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles;feel about magazines they pay for versus free regionals mailed to their homes. The study found;what else?;that free magazines "proved to be significantly less likely to be read and significantly less likely to be valued than paid magazines."
In Atlanta’s swanky Buckhead community, the study claims just 5.6 percent of respondents hadn’t heard of Emmis’ Atlanta Magazine, while 76.3 percent hadn’t heard of Paper City and 56.3 percent hadn’t heard of Season. In Dallas, only 4.5 percent of respondents hadn’t heard of Texas Monthly, compared to 80.2 percent for Brilliant and 59.8 percent for Modern Luxury Dallas. In Los Angeles, just 5 percent of respondents hadn’t heard of Los Angeles Magazine compared to 39.6 percent in Angeleno.
The study took an additional shot at freebies, saying a significant number of respondents indicated they wanted to be taken off circulation lists, although phrased in generic terms, claiming 94.7 percent of Atlanta respondents "say they receive too many UNSOLICITED catalogs, brochures, magazines and newspapers in the mail."
Whether advertisers put significant stock in the study remains to be seen but it’s clear publishers aren’t ready to give up paid circ as a selling point.