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o MPA (The Association of Magazine Media), the idea was blatantly obvious. As president and CEO Mary Berner explains: “We realised we needed to capture this data and put an end to the relentless negative narrative in the magazine media. Print still retains 67 per cent of the magazine industry – but that is rapidly changing. We wanted to capture consumer demand across all the platforms. If you just look at print, you only have partial metrics.” Magazine Media 360 launched in September 2014. “We didn’t committee the idea to death,” says Berner. “We were aggressive about moving it forward quickly. So we required 31 CEOs to attend a webinar and we asked them to sign off the project. This top down approach meant we didn’t have to waste time pitching it to others. Obviously we listened to feedback – and after that a lot of leg work was involved.” The association pulls together data from GfK MRI, Ipsos, comScore and Nielsen Online, and compiles both growth and total audience ratings for five different categories:

✱ Print and digital editions ✱ Web (desktop/laptop) ✱ Mobile web ✱ Video ✱ Total 360

The data covers 150 magazine brands from 31 companies, representing 95 per cent of the US magazine industry, so it is clear to see why media watchers are clamouring for the material. “In the beginning, it was a ‘heavy lift’ to get the industry to supply and agree processes and methodology. But it was worth it. People are using the data – in Wall Street and in the ad agencies. This is the most important work we’ve ever done. The negative heart beat stopped overnight. Our figures are being quoted by publishers such as Time Inc and The New York Times. It’s a new metric and it was the right way to do it.”

The criteria MPA set out three guiding principles:

✱ Has to be credible – so we use third party data.

✱ Has to be comparable and consistent; i.e., it has to be pulled in the same way from the same sources.

✱ Has to be free for everyone – so it is accessible.

The metric burst onto the scene in September with good news, revealing a 10.6 per cent increase in consumer demand for magazine media content across all platforms and formats. “We have proved that consumers have deep engagement with our brands,” says Berner. “We publish the figures every month, so this is a new measure leading the way – everyone is coming to us. The UBS Bank does a global media conference and Magazine Media 360 will be the subject of the Keynote Speech. It is the new industry Gold Standard.”

Good reception

Berner admits that it took courage for the industry to support the initiative. “There are winners and losers – magazines will have good and bad months. But the important thing is that we produce an accurate metric.” There was also a certain amount of negotiation over methodology – clearly there have to be checks and balances and allowances for size, etc – but these were mere niggles in what Berner believes is a defining moment for the industry. “The


There are winners and losers – magazines will have good and bad months. But the important thing is that we produce an accurate metric...

It’s a defining moment: MPA’s Mary Berner

reception to Magazine Media 360 has been uniformly positive. The only downside is that we could make it more visible.” The metric has far-reaching possibilities. FIPP research consultant Guy Consterdine sees the international potential: “Collating audience data from all platforms in this way, to show the total picture, helps to shift the conversation with marketers from just print to magazine media as a whole. This is something which can be adopted in other countries, underlining how strong magazine media are throughout the world.” Berner agrees: “There isn’t a country which doesn’t need to do a similar metric. It’s imperative. The industries in each country need to put aside old habits and practices, roll up their sleeves and get down to it. The implications are enormous.”

Next steps Meanwhile, MPA is already working on Magazine Media 360 2.0, a separate ‘engagement’ metric. This will undoubtedly be a little bit more complex as it involves the “squishy” element of social media. “Certainly there is a challenge with small magazines versus big ones. We have to ensure the methodology is fair and doesn’t favour big or small,” says Berner.

Consterdine says industry pundits will be

We didn’t committee the idea to death...we were aggressive about moving it forward quickly

following these figures closely. “It will be most illuminating to see the magnitude of the audience figures for social media. I expect them to be substantial,” he says. “In Indonesia, for example, Femina weekly magazine has published statistics showing that its social media gross audience was seven or eight times larger than its combined print, digital editions and web audiences.” What’s not to like about another metric which gauges just how compelling magazine brands are? Whether audiences are engaging with a brand online or in print, the MPA aims to capture those numbers, and make them highly visible. Magazine World | Issue 86_2014 21

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