Media Insights Q&A With Meredith's Britta Ware
Direct links to the full interview videos can be found at http://weislermedia.blogspot.com/2009/11/q-interview-with-britta-ware-meredith.html Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Charlene Weisler: You've been in print, in magazines, for a number of years. You've seen some tremendous change. What do you think has precipitated that change, and how are you adapting to it?
Britta Ware: That is the question that is on everyone's mouth these days - what's happening. It's really a full circle here, what has come first. I think the growth of digital media has been a game-changer in this area. Consumers are looking online for quicker means of getting information. So that's been the game-changer.
Magazines are adapting to how the consumer -- in Meredith's case, the women -- who are looking for information. So it's a matter of trying to understand how to reach her in the way she wants to be reached.
I think magazines have gone through a lot of changes. Some have adapted well and some have adapted not as well. At Meredith, our focus is on home, family and personal development, which are three things that will never go away. So we are giving content to a woman in a format that she has expressed a real interest in getting.
I think there are other categories that had to change or adapt more dramatically - finance, entertainment, business - where the expectation of getting news immediately has increased and is being delivered through the internet, so they have had to change a little bit more.
Not to say that the magazines here at Meredith aren't going through changes -- they absolutely are. It's a matter of making a different place for the woman to go. For example, with Fitness magazine, the focus is about healthy lifestyle, giving examples on exercises [and] healthy diet. You can go online and get 100 exercises to do with the medicine ball. You're not going to get 100 exercises in the magazine, nor would you expect that
The reading experience is an escape. It's a sit-back and enjoy, and the editor does a great job of bringing you the topline of everything -- but you can go online and get more.
Making that combination [work], I think, is the challenge for magazines. And who knows what is going to happen down the line with the actual printed magazine. The e-readers and the electronic readers I think are definitely an option for the future. It will just be a matter of is the technology advanced enough to meet the consumer demand for that comfortable, sit-back, reading-escape experience.
CW: Britta, what are you working on now?
BW: I am working on a lot of different things. Accountability is one of the huge focuses of research today. With the economy [shift] and even before, everyone wants to be sure that they know where their dollars are going and what value they are providing - what is the return of this investment. So I spent a lot of time working in that area.
I recently delivered a paper with a colleague from MediaVest, David Shiffman, on media mix modeling and accountability.... What is the issue with accountability in magazines? We often hear, 'Oh, magazines don't work in the model,' and what does that really mean? So we undertook a project where we tried to understand what exactly does that mean and can we change it.
And what turns out is that in magazines, the way the media mix models work is that they are all based on sales. Sales are reported on a weekly basis, so models put media inputs that are relevant to those weeks. [With] television, obviously, you can put in weekly grps, and in other media you can put in weekly levels and demographic and geographic -- but with magazines it was very limited on the inputs.
So what we are finding is that [with] a magazine, by the nature of the way it is read, it takes a period of time for the whole audience to accumulate. Putting all the grps in the first week in the models was illustrating no impact on sales. So the magazine would have a big grp but the sales would plod along. So they think that magazines aren't working.
[In] this paper [what] we did was to interview a number of modeling companies to determine what their best practices were and how they felt about magazines. The good news was that all the modeling companies would say, 'If we had better input that would be great - that would help in the models.' So it turns out MRI is able to deliver accumulated grps by DMA, so that kind of data is much more of a replicate of what is happening in the real world....