The MPA -- The Association of Magazine Media -- is moving to address this imbalance with a new monthly report that is intended to provide a more rounded picture of the magazine industry by tracking publishers’ digital efforts as well as their print properties. The new report, called "Magazine Media 360," follows 147 magazine brands from 30 publishers, drawing on data from research outfits including GfK MRI, Ipsos, comScore, Nielsen Online and SocialFlow to measure consumer demand for a broad range of products, including print and digital editions, Web sites and video.
Separately, the MPA will also begin measuring magazines’ followings on five major social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.
The first Magazine Media 360 report shows that the gross audience for U.S. magazine media across all channels increased 10% from 1.341 billion in August 2013 to 1.475 billion in August 2013.
Turning to specific channels, the total audience for print and digital editions increased 2.1% from 993 million to 1.014 billion, while mobile Web traffic soared 98% from 118 million to 234 million. Web traffic from laptops and desktops slipped 4.6% from 215 million to 205 million.
MPA President and CEO Mary Berner explained that “given the success of many magazine brands on those new platforms, continuing to rely on print circulation and ad paging counts in isolation to determine demand for magazine media would be like measuring the viewership of the Super Bowl exclusively based on the people who watched it in the stadium.”
The MPA stopped reporting ad pages (as measured by the Publishers Information Bureau) after the first quarter of this year -- hardly a surprising decision, considering that the PIB reports had become something of a regular drumbeat of decline in recent years. Total ad pages among magazines tracked by PIB tumbled from 243,305 in 2005 to 145,713 in 2013, for a 40% drop in under a decade. As print magazines’ fortunes started to slip, the MPA shifted from regular monthly reports on ad pages to quarterly reports back in 2007.
However, the awkward truth remains that the legacy print business still makes up the bulk of magazine revenues, judging by bellwethers like Time Inc. In its second-quarter results, the nation’s largest publisher reported total digital ad revenues of $74 million, or 16% of total ad revenues of $461 million. In short, continuing print revenue declines likely foreshadow continuing contraction across the magazine publishing business, with more personnel cuts, closures, and divestments to come.
To be fair the MPA isn’t alone in trying to shift the spotlight away from less-than-stellar print numbers. Earlier this year, the Newspaper Association of America revealed that it would no longer be releasing quarterly data on newspaper advertising and circulation revenues, following almost a decade of unrelenting losses. From now on, the NAA will only report figures on an annual basis.