Newspapers Field 'Hug My Paper' Studies, Will Measure Engagement

At a time when Madison Avenue is championing engagement as a new metric for measuring the effectiveness of media, the newspaper industry has quietly engaged two research initiatives on that subject, MediaDailyNews has learned. Details of one of the studies, underwritten by the Newspaper Association of America, are expected to be announced in the next several weeks, as part of a build-up of a media marketing frenzy surrounding Advertising Week in New York next month.

At least one of the studies is expected to be based on research being fielded by Scarborough Research, a company jointly owned by Arbitron and VNU that conducts studies on media and product usage in local media markets. Scarborough's role is significant, because it is considered the currency for negotiating newspaper advertising buys and is analogous to the "Nielsen ratings" of the newspaper industry.

Executives familiar with the newspaper effort say it will mirror the kind of research the magazine industry has been conducting over the past several years that has been designed to illustrate the unique relationship readers have with magazines, and why that make the print medium a superior environment to advertise in.

"Newspapers have been keeping an eye on the MPA's 'hug-my-magazine' research," says one executive, referring to the Magazine Publishers of America's Reader Experience studies.

Interestingly, the MPA's effort first began with research that was developed at Northwestern University for the newspapers industry. The project began when the NAA broad created a Readership Institute at the Media Management Center at Northwestern. In fact, the magazine industry's own research has found that newspapers also do extremely well in terms of creating a unique bond with readers that transcends anything generated by electronic media.

But the new NAA effort will go one step beyond the reader's experience with advertising and editorial content in print, and will also seek to correlate it to actual purchasing behavior. "We really want to quantify what happens when people engage in the product [in newspaper ads]. What actions to they take as a result," says another executive.

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