Print Mag Audiences Up, Metrics & Other Interesting Data
For the past week Mary Berner, President of The MPA (Magazine Media Association), and I have been communicating publicly and sometimes privately. I think all of our conversations have been appropriately spirited and healthy for the industry. We don't agree on all issues, but we are having a professional dialog, most of it in the open, and that is good for everyone.
Mary has pointed out that my comment about a chart derived from the 360 numbers "was most decidedly NOT 'derived from the 360 numbers' and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Magazine Media 360 report or MPA. In fact I agree with you that the chart (and using social media activity as a proxy for brand vitality or claiming any insight based on this kind of data) is silly at best, and misleading at worst."
She is correct that the chart I mentioned was from MIN and not the MPA, but I think that was a small detail in a much broader discussion. I still feel that the publishing industry reports should be transparent and contain all the information available in order to get a full picture that calibrates the entire industry's performance. They should include circulation numbers, advertising page count, sales data, and also some meaningful digital metrics.
It's the digital metrics that are, indeed, terribly misleading. When a person reads a magazine or watches a TV show or listens to the radio, we have long established metrics tied to advertising and revenue. We know the worth of those actions. Where does a like fit into those metrics? Is one like equivalent to one session with a magazine, or does it take two, or is it three likes? Is a Google+ chat equivalent in advertising terms to buying a subscription?
Total audience metrics incorporating all the social networks for magazines are meaningless except perhaps for the ego of the publisher. I would rather we sold our products with the full understanding of precisely what we are and what we have to offer the customer and the advertiser, without meaningless numbers. It's the special nature of our products that give us any true strength and real vitality, not to mention integrity.
The magazine business is where the concentration of audience has more worth for what it is, than what it isn't. It isn't about the big numbers of total audience. Advertising and advertisers are now used to dealing in ever smaller buys as they continue to concentrate on a one-to-one relationship with the customers, our readers.
Cross-media measurement is nearly irrelevant because we are comparing disparate sets of data that have nothing to do with each other. The data points are not in any way equal to each other, not in any way comparable.
I am not in saying we don't need and shouldn't have web stats, but they should be meaningful data and not just "stuff" compiled on top of other stuff to get TV-like statistics. Magazines aren't TV -- for magazines the bigger the artificial numbers, the more ridiculous they become.
Eliminating the ad page counts is wrong when you consider that most magazines' revenues are derived from print advertising. It's a strong metric even when you consider the make-goods, the house ads, and the inbreeding fluff. Someone, either the publisher or a client, paid for the manufacture of those printed ad pages, and that has real, meaningful value.
All of which brings me to the following article. The headline is Print Magazine Audiences Up, and the opening paragraph states:
"While the story told by advertising pages wasn't a positive one, prompting the Publishers Information Bureau to stop reporting the figures for ad pages earlier this year, the audience for many print magazines continues to grow, according to the latest data from GfK MRI, covering the fall 2014 period."
Really! Print Magazine Audiences Up, when actual sales went down 27% in the 3rd quarter. This demonstrates the absolute meaningless nature of the stats now being distributed.
Look at this part of the report: "On the positive side, many celebrity and fashion titles saw audience increases from Fall 2013 to Fall 2014, with People up 2.1% from 42.7 million to 43.6 million..." Are you kidding? People Magazine in print is crashing and burning at a rapid rate, and Joe Ripp seems ready to throw in the towel and move Time, Inc. to a web-centric company as fast as is reasonable and possible.
An article titled "Print Magazine Audiences Up," published in the December 3, 2014 issue of Media Daily News, contained an error. Although the aggregate audience for the top 30 magazines measured by GfK MRI in fall 2013 and fall 2014 increased, the total audience for all 182 magazines measured in the audience report actually decreased 1.5% from 1.174 billion to 1.156 billion.
Despite Erik Sass's headline being wrong, I stand by everything I said. What possible significance do the numbers 1.174 billion or 1.156 billion have to your part of the print magazine business? Do they have any meaning for your titles? Whether you are Rolling Stone, U.S. News & World Reports, Yoga Times, UTNE, Good Housekeeping, High Times Magazine, or Wired, how do those numbers work to your company's benefit?