Magazine Experience Wanted, All Other Media Need Not Apply

As the ad industry debates what constitutes consumer involvement with media and how to properly measure and value it, the magazine industry is going directly to the source: consumers themselves.

In what is being billed internally as the "reader experience project," the Magazine Publishers of America has commissioned academic researchers at Northwestern University to get inside the heads of readers to learn how, when, where and why they connect with magazines and, by proxy, why that would be of value to print advertisers.

Findings of the study are scheduled to be released during the MPA's American Magazine Conference Oct. 18-22 in Rancho Mirage, CA.

"It's basically a reader-centric piece of research," said Wayne Eadie, senior VP-research at the MPA, who says even the trade association does not yet know the results of the study, but that whatever they are, they will reveal new insights into the relationship people have with magazines.

"It all begins with the reader. If you understand how a reader reads a magazine, then you have all the information you will need for advertising, circulation and editorial," he explained.

As such, the reader experience project goes beyond surrogate measures of reader involvement, such as the Reader Involvement Index developed by leading consumer magazine publishers and based mainly on attributes derived from Mediamark Research Inc.'s semiannual consumer surveys.

"It's through the readers' own thoughts, language and ideas about what magazines mean to them," noted Eadie. "It will go a lot further than the involvement thing. It will get into things like wantedness."

While not necessarily grammatical, so-called "wantedness" is a term being used by the magazine industry to describe the special relationship devoted consumers have with their publications. Among the elements that go into the new measure are how much they want to read a magazine, whether it is one of their favorites and, perhaps most importantly, that they are willing to pay - quite frequently at full subscription or newsstand rates - to get a copy of it.

Eadie declined to disclosed details of the project's methodology, but the effort comes just as the ad industry has ratified a new model for measuring the advertising effectiveness of all media that for the first time includes metrics like "attentiveness" and "persuasion," terms and measures that are still relatively vague.

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