MPA members ‘hang all their washing out on the line’ with the launch of Magazine 360 metric

The Magazine Publishers Association (MPA) is looking to provide a more holistic view of the reach of magazine brands through a new online tool, dubbed Magazine 360.

The website serves as something of a central control panel where media strategists or advertisers can access total magazine brand audience—across print, online and social—for participating MPA member publications.

The data on Magazine 360 can be used to give a broad overview of the total audience of a single publisher or it can be segmented into categories, target audiences or individual publications.

MPA deputy chair and Kowhai Media director James Frankham says while magazines have been active in digital for years, publishers haven’t been good at measuring audiences or communicating the value of that to the market.  

“In some respects, it’s been one of the magazine industry’s great failures,” he says.

“The MPA saw this as an industry-wide problem and looked to the US market where a 360-degree standard had been adopted to address it. We followed suit, and took the opportunity to dovetail with measurement standards common to the local market to quantify readership and impressions across all mediums.”

Until now, those interested in the reach of magazine brands would have to rely on three separate sources of information: ABC for circulation data, Nielsen for readership, and various sources for online and web traffic.

The new site, developed by Tangible Media, brings all this data (and more) together in a single place, giving the user an instant idea of the overall reach of a magazine brand across all touchpoints. And creating it has been one of the MPA’s biggest recent investments.

“We recognise that the process has to sum apples and oranges, but the size of a fruit bowl tells a very interesting story,” says Frankham. 

“It turns out magazines are just as good at building an audience in digital media as they are in print media. And that success is represented across brands as diverse as mass-market weeklies and premium lifestyle titles. I think the results surprised us all.”

In continuing Frankham’s fruit bowl analogy, another possible criticism that could be levelled at the new site is that the same apple or orange might be counted numerous times across various channels—inflating the overall reach.

MPA executive chair Pip Elliott admits duplication is always a problem when it comes to providing a unified figure across numerous channels, but says the MPA has been transparent about its methodology.

Elliott says all members of the MPA worked toward a consensus on what methodology would provide the most accurate reflection of the reach of the magazine brands, looking to cut out duplication wherever possible.

“You can’t cut out all duplication, but what Magazine 360 does is provide a broad overview of how brands are performing in an omnichannel world,” she says.

This resonates with comments made by MBM managing partner Sean McCready, who was given an early glimpse at the new offering. 

“Overall, I think it is a good initiative to reinforce that magazines are more than just the printed form,” he says.

“We’ll probably use it as a ready reckoner for magazine options when planning, alongside Nielsen CMI and online data. Rather than providing hard actionable data, we’ll use it to observe opportunities that titles offer beyond the printed page.”

Because the data is updated on a monthly basis, advertisers and media agencies can also track the performance of different publications to ensure they’re spending advertising dollars on the right publications and in the right channels.

All claims of reach made—particularly in the online and social channels—must be backed by evidence from the publisher. And while this was a very collaborative project, there are checks and balances in place: in the event of anomalies in the data provided (such as an unusually big jump in email subscribers), the MPA or competing publishers can request an explanation.

In addition to being a form of self-regulation, it’s also a big step toward ensuring more transparency – a very hot topic in the marketing world at present – in that information usually hidden behind walled gardens and available only to the administrators is made available to public scrutiny.  

The impact of this is perhaps best captured by Frankham saying: “In some respects, this is the magazine industry hanging all their washing out on the line in plain sight. Our successes and failures will be there for all to see, but for the first time, it will be the full picture… Y-fronts and all.”

A few interesting stats from the site:

  • In the last 12 months, 40,276 people have attended an NZ Geographic-owned event.
  • Many of the magazines included have well-established Facebook audiences. Little Treasures reaches 295,751 New Zealanders, NZ Geographic reaches 275,160 and Woman’s Day reaches 240,516.   
  • Information magazines have the most Twitter followers. Metro has 61,600, Idealog 47,400 and NZ Listener 15,482.
  • Bauer’s www.nowtolove.co.nz aggregation had 261,285 unique New Zealand users in April.
  • Engineering & Manufacturing magazine’s e-newsletter reaches 6,548 people.

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