iPad = Publishing’s Portable People Meter
The radio industry was changed forever with the advent of the portable people meter (PPM) and the same will happen with the publishing industry and the advent of digital magazines on the iPad.
For years, radio executives could jake the system thanks to an inefficient ratings system that required listeners to fill out by hand a paper ratings book. All they needed to do was write the station they listened to and the times they listened. There was no true checks or balances to make sure all the information provided was true. Anyone could write anything in those books, true or not, which led to artificially inflated numbers.
But then the PPM was introduced and the gaming was over. The PPM is a portable meter that attaches to a listener and picks up the signal of the radio station they are listening to. There is no way to fake it. The signal is what it is. As a result of this true audit of radio listeners, the industry has undergone a change. Notice how rock stations are disappearing and talk/sports stations are becoming more prevalent on FM stations?
For decades, many publishers have also used a loose system to artificially inflate their own numbers. Sure, there are third-party auditing companies that are supposed to keep this from happening, but they can't stop every executive from stretching the limits of fair play to meet rate base. This too will end as the publishing industry is faced with its own version of the PPM with the metrics used for measuring reader engagement in digital magazines.
Tools such as Omniture provide information within numerous categories to give an accurate reading about what content and advertising readers are engaging with and for how long. It would take an awful lot of effort for larger publications to jake this system enough to influence their numbers, and smaller pubs who may do it, won't have the scale needed to benefit from their effort.
Much like the radio industry, the publishing industry will also see change due to this new measuring stick. No longer will titles benefit from puffing up their circulation numbers and then basing their rates off those figures without much accountability. The iPad will be the great equalizer. Same with pass along readership. Titles that got away with these tactics in print, won't succeed in digital format. And wonky titles that fled to the iPad in hopes of reviving a flawed business model or weak concept, will still fail.
An emphasis on quality over quantity will return, not only in content but audience as well and this will benefit everybody from readers to advertisers to publishers themselves.
Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.
MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.
MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.