Raising the bar on media measurement

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Magazine publishers continue to invest in new and better ways to measure advertising performance. Panelists at the MPA’s American Magazine Conference this week talked about the strides publishers are making in media measurement and the opportunities they’re unlocking to drive advertising revenues.

The key, of course, is the increasingly granular data publishers are collecting about audience behaviors. Time Inc., for example, this week launched PinPoint, a new service that will match Time subscriber data with consumer purchase data provided by Nielsen Catalina Solutions – effectively tying ad exposures to sales.

PinPoint “helps us really understand who’s buying our clients’ products and what their affinity is,” said Caryn Klein, VP of research and insights at Time Inc. “Offering it for both print and online assets is huge.”

Real advertising ROI?

The ability to assign a tangible ROI to print and online advertising would be a significant development as advertisers look for more transparence and accountability for their media buys.

“PinPoint is a game-changer,” said Brenda White, senior VP and publishing activation director at Starcom Mediavest. Starcom has its own partnership with Time; the two companies last year launched an initiative called the Alliance for Magazine Accountability, which guarantees a certain number of readers would remember or take action on print ads.

 “We’ve seen great momentum with media measurement over the last 18-24 months,” said White, citing the two Time initiatives as well as Meredith’s new “ROI guarantee” for print ads, introduced in July. “There’s a new spirit of partnership around measurement with publishers, and the conversation is around ROI.”

Advertisers have launched their own efforts to change the status quo in online measurement. A coalition of ad industry trade groups, for example, earlier this year launched an initiative called Making Media Make Sense, and last month announced plans to begin testing a “viewable impression” standard.

The collective impact of these efforts could shift the dynamics of multichannel media buying. “We’re already seeing a bit of a paradigm shift,” said Jay Lauf, VP and publisher of The Atlantic. “Many publishers are now starting out with digital adding print as part of the mix.”

Cross-platform measurement remains a challenge

There’s plenty of work to be done, however. Standards for measuring campaigns across multiple platforms remain elusive. And most digital publishers and advertisers still rely on metrics such as click-through rates – even as they admit that CTRs are a poor way to measure ad performance.

“We cannot keep standing behind the old measurement tools,” said Klein. “We have to come up with new ways to measure what we’re delivering to our audiences.”

Those methods must include better metrics for audience engagement, panelists said.

“We have to take measurement to the next level, toward an emotional experience,” said White. “What is the emotional connection someone has to your brand? Measuring that will help us develop greater creative.”

Time Inc. is investing in this area as well. The publisher has hired Innerscope Research to study consumers’ biometric responses to content and advertising. “Understanding the emotional connection is huge for us,” said White. “It could change how we define engagement.”

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