Publishers and advertisers are scrambling to keep up with the surge of interest in tablet computers and digital publications designed for them -- and big trade organizations are hurrying to ensure that the interests of their constituents are represented. Toward that end, last week the American Association of Advertising Agencies sent an open letter to the MPA asking publishers to provide more specific information to advertisers about digital magazine readership on tablets.
While praising the MPA’s recently issued guidelines for tablet reporting as “a step in the right direction,” the 4As letter to MPA CMO Chris Kevorkian asked for more detailed data in a number of areas. First, advertisers would like publishers to break out tablet-audience metrics into subscription and single-copy sales, as well as distinguishing between subscribers who bought a new digital-only subscription, and subscribers who simply verified a pre-existing print subscription to receive the digital counterpart.
Second, the 4As called for “an accredited, third-party research vendor for measuring readership across these new devices,” along with a consistent template for reporting tablet readership metrics from different publishers.
Third, advertisers need access to unduplicated numbers for readership on tablets, other digital and online platforms, and print, to be able to assess total reach for specific magazine brands. They would also like access to, at the very least, “basic” demographic information about magazine readership across various channels.
Fourth, to maximize the creative potential allowed by tablets, advertisers need data on consumer engagement with digital magazine ads, including “at minimum, average time spent with ‘enhanced’ ads such as video, slideshows, etc.” Advertisers also need “data on actions taken when readers engage with links and hot spots.”
Finally, the 4As letter criticized the practice of lumping together digital and print circulation to meet advertising ratebase guarantees, noting that some advertisers are unable or unwilling to use digital editions to full effect -- for example, scent advertisers. Thus, “magazines should establish a print ratebase and a digital ratebase.”
The 4As letter added: “We will also be issuing this letter to each of the major publishing companies and will hope for compliance.”
At the beginning of April, the MPA suggested guidelines for reporting tablet circulation, recommending that publishers include the total number of consumer-paid digital issues; total number of tablet readers per issue; total number of sessions per issue; total time spent per reader per issue; and the average number of sessions per reader per issue. The task force also suggested schedules for reporting tablet circ. For monthly publications, they recommended releasing metrics data within 10 weeks of the newsstand on-sale date, and within seven weeks for weekly publications.
The Audit Board of Circulations also recently introduced a new report format that will offer more detail on consumer magazines’ digital publications, incorporating several recommendations from a combined task force of U.S. and Canadian publishers and advertisers. Under the new rules, when a publication’s digital editions constitute over 2% of its total circ (and average at least 3,000 copies), the publisher must report net digital circulation by platform type, including Web, apps and multiplatform offers. The new report format requires publishers to report several key metrics for digital magazine consumption via tablet apps and Web browsers, including the number of unique browsers or devices, total visits and average visit duration.