Ad pages are gone, and in their place the MPA has released collection of audience data for magazine brands across the industry.
The new initiative, Magazine Media 360, changes the narrative from one of consistent declines—ad pages were down in each of the last 4 years, according to the MPA, including a 4.1-percent loss in 2013—to one of audience growth.
"We finally have a comprehensive accounting of consumer demand for our brands, an imperative for the industry since, with the growth of new, rapidly evolving digital platforms, consumer demand is today’s media currency," says Mary Berner, president and CEO of the MPA"Continuing to rely on print circulation and ad paging counts in isolation to determine demand for magazine media would be like measuring the viewership of the Super Bowl exclusively based on the people who watched it in the stadium."
The MPA will still collect ad page data, but is restricting access to members. Media Industry Newsletter is also ceasing its ad page reports after nearly 70 years.
The move is a welcome one for association members that have faced questions about their viability in the current marketplace and serves as a potentially useful tool for media buyers. It could ultimately obscure answers about the health of individual brands via sales and revenue however. Print advertising is still the largest component of total revenue for most consumer publishers.
It’s also unclear whether the aggregate data is truly representative of the consumer magazine market as a whole. Magazine Media 360 measures 147 select titles from 30 publishers, while more than 200 magazines were listed in the MPA’s year-end ad page report for 2013.
Non-members like Wenner Media (Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, Men’s Journal), Bauer Media (In Touch Weekly, Woman’s World) and a slew of independent titles (including ESPN the Magazine, Inc., Fast Company, Latina, Playboy and TV Guide) aren’t counted in the new report. Neither are several titles from member publishers like Flex, Country Weekly and Bloomberg Markets.
Non-members and non-included member titles made up almost 16 percent of total ad pages for the Top 100 magazines last year.
The MPA’s new audience data fills one important void in reporting on magazine performance, but in getting rid of ad pages, it creates another.