Magazine Accountability at Long Last
There was a news report recently released by Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) that announced the company's plans to begin testing a promising new technology that can literally print interactive microchips on any printed page. That technology (RFID) is already widely used in a variety of other everyday applications.
Using a process originally developed by the MIT Media Laboratory, MRI will begin testing whether RFID tags printed onto magazine pages can be used for magazine-audience measurement. That is an event of which the publishing business in the 21st century is sorely in need. For several years, we have suffered from a condition that I call "DBIA"—decreased belief in accountability.
RFID is one system that can help cure DBIA. RFID will also help in newsstand deployment, inventory and control of sales data. The advent of RFID is clearly the death of the UPC. RFID is a more eloquent and sophisticated weapon in the data wars.
The magazine and publishing industry is in desperate need for a face lift. The competition for the advertising dollar is getting harder and harder for routine maintenance, much less for sustained growth. What the publishing industry needs can be partially supplied by using RFID tagging applied during the printing process.
An experienced RFID insider once told me that it would be too hard to assimilate the data and digest the numbers into meaningful reports. I dismiss the observation that there is no infrastructure to secure and interpret all the data. That is a minor detail technology can overcome in the lifecycle of a single Intel chip.
If the government can track and tag the comings and goings of millions of cars on the turnpikes of America, then the magazine business of America can track and tag millions of magazine pages and readers.