Do Publishers and Advertisers Really Want New Metrics?
When he took over as MPA chairman in 2005, Hachette Filipacchi CEO Jack Kliger’s first movewas to call for the magazine industry and its advertisers to pursue a new way of measuring and evaluating magazines. "Circulation-based metrics are irrelevant to proving advertising effectiveness," Kliger said at the time. "There is too much focus on ratebase rather than distribution. Every other medium deals with audience, we deal with circulation. Why should a magazine advertiser care if a magazine is paid or non-paid?"
This week, at the end of his two-year tenure as MPA chairman, Kliger reiterated the call for new metrics. Not doing so, he said, "shortchanges the value proposition to the advertiser."
But while both publishers and advertisers nod their heads in adamant agreement that new metrics are needed, the lack of support for new metrics begs the question of whether they really want them. Advertisers and agencies for the most part seem more concerned with pushing publishers on price. Why support data that justifies a rate increase? In the recent Folio: Consumer CEO Survey , several respondents said advertisers focusing on low CPMs rather than the quality of integrated packages frustrated them. "There is a failure on the part of advertisers to accept solutions versus driving for low CPMs," said one consumer-publishing executive.
On the publisher side, many remain leery about methodologies that could show specific issues as poor performers. Some early efforts in new metrics have foundered. Last year, McPheters & Co. dropped Readership.com, it’s attempt at collecting issue-specific data, after it only took in about half of the $5 million it needed to support fielding the service. In June 2007, MRI released its first Issue Specific Readership Study, which offers syndicated research showing total audience estimates and demographics for individual issues of magazines. However, the study seems to have been greeted with little industry-wide fanfare.
Other efforts are underway. MRI and Nielsen Online have teamed on a service to track unduplicated audiences of publications and their Web sites. McPheters & Co. is conducting a study to gauge the effectiveness of public-place copies. But new metrics won’t gain any support unless advertisers are able to accept that they may need to start giving magazines more credit than mass media whipping boy, and publishers will need to admit that not every issue is a slam dunk, and will have to start planning and pricing accordingly.