GfK MRI President and CEO Kathi Love is stepping down effective Feb. 15, according to a letter she sent to clients on Wednesday. The media research firm
will be led on an interim basis by Chief Research Officer Julian Baim and Chief Operating Officer Ian Jack, acting as co-presidents, until a replacement president and CEO is appointed.
Love said she is resigning to pursue her long-standing interest in psychology and sociology, fields in which she holds academic degrees. The letter implied that the resignation was her decision: “Many of us do not get the opportunity to decide when we would like to leave our corporate responsibilities behind and pursue some of the things we've wanted to do for decades. I am truly blessed to have such a prerogative.”
President and CEO of MRI since 2000, Love led MRI (which rebranded as GfK MRI in May 2010) through a period of upheaval in the media business, as the transition to digital distribution and consumption forced traditional media companies -- including consumer magazine publishers, some of MRI’s main clients -- to make rapid (and not always voluntary) changes.
This in turn forced MRI, like other big media research firms, to adapt swiftly. The result was a series of mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and new research
offerings intended to help magazine publishers and advertisers keep pace with the digital age.
The push began with the introduction in earnest in June 2007 of the “Issue Specific Readership Study,” which tracks the accumulation of audience for specific issues of different magazines over time. Also in 2007, GfK MRI and Nielsen unveiled Nielsen TV/GfK MRI Data Fusion, combining data from GfK MRI's Survey of the American Consumer with data from Nielsen's National People Meter.
In July 2008, MRI bought Starch Communications, a sister company also owned by the GfK Group, enabling it to begin producing detailed, issue-specific measurement of individual print ads -- a key demand of publishers and advertisers that wanted print ads to offer the same accountability as interactive, online ads.
In June 2009, MRI launched its new “AdMeasure” report, which provides ratings for individual ads showing not only audience exposure,
but subsequent actions taken by readers.
In 2011, GfK MRI began full cross-platform measurement of magazine readership, covering all digital platforms, including Web sites, digital editions received via email, smartphone apps, e-readers and tablets. In June of that year, GfK MRI partnered with comScore to create the comScore-MRI Fusion database, which combines print readership with online activity and other types of media consumption.
By August 2011, MRI also acquired a 25% stake in the Media Behavior Institute, a research outfit founded in 2008, in support of
MBI’s launch of USA TouchPoints, which issues smartphones to consumers to record media usage.
In February 2012, GfK MRI announced the launch of Starch Digital, a syndicated service to measure the readership and effectiveness of digital advertising in consumer magazines, including editions consumed on tablets, e-readers and other digital channels.