Readership.com Founder on Why Circulation Metrics Fail Both Publishers and Advertisers
Rebecca McPheters, president of McPheters & Company and a consultant offering strategic and marketing planning and research for the media community, talked with InBox about the downside to circulation-based advertising. McPheters’ call for change comes at a time when magazines such as Time are considering elimination of their rate bases. Her latest venture, Readership.com, launches in January and promises to improve magazine metrics via an online audience-measurement service. Thew new print ratings service will provide continuous measurement of publication audiences via anonymous surveys, tracking print audience levels and engagement on an issue-by-issue basis. Readership.com aims to change the way in which advertising in magazines and national newspapers is bought and sold, by providing information that is comparable to that of electronic media.
InBox: Has there been any more talk—to your knowledge—of Time magazine eliminating its rate base? What kind of impact would this have both on Time and the rest of the industry, in your opinion?
Rebecca McPheters: All I know about this is what I know because of the Mediaweek article [on Sept. 4]. Both publishers and advertisers misallocate enormous resources because of what I believe is a misplaced focus on circulation. Whatever circulation metrics are used, circulation simply is not a good predictor of audience size or quality—the two principal components of advertiser value. While it won’t happen overnight, I believe a shift away from circulation-based guarantees [to a more efficient method of audience measurement] is in the long-term best interest of both publishers and advertisers.
InBox: What’s the latest with Readership.com? How is it being received throughout the industry and are you still on target to launch this fall?
McPheters: Readership.com has generated enormous interest throughout the industry. However, since many of our supporters need to fund it from their 2007 budgets—and since the software development will take a bit longer than we anticipated—we are deferring the launch until January. In the interim period, we hope to complete a pre-audit by the Media Rating Council, so as to avoid having to make any changes subsequent to our roll-out that would disrupt trendability.