[responsive][/responsive]The magazine industry — and in particular that portion of the industry looking to leverage the influence of digital readership – just got a stern warning shot across the bow.
“MediaVest, an influential media-buying agency with clients including Coca-Cola, has told at least eight publishers that it will no longer count iPad and other tablet circulation toward their magazines’ circulation guarantees,” Michael Sebastian writes in Ad Age.
While some publishers may take a skeptical look at this announcement, believing it to be a move to undercut ad page rates, we see it as further evidence that print and digital circulation figures should not be conflated.
In other words, as Sebastian notes, “the time has come for rigorous transparency and accountability — and separate circulation guarantees for print and tablet editions.”
This news comes painfully close to the heels of MPA’s recent release of their MPA 360 data and Mary Berner’s defense of the new metrics.
Berner, who just this week asserted that audience is more important that circulation, looks to be on notice from the people who buy ads that no, it’s not – circulation, and in particular print circulation, still reigns in their world.
“Beginning with January 2015 issues, MediaVest plans to negotiate separate terms for print and digital editions, according to a document sent to publishers in October,” continues Sebastian. “The document, according to several people who have seen it, states that MediaVest will no longer be accepting digital edition, tablet, or third screen copies as part of paid print rate base.”
This lays the groundwork for advertisers to pay separate rates for print and digital ads, and MediaVest is demanding “publishers provide a detailed report on each ad, including the number of unique readers who viewed the ad, the total number of times it was viewed, the number of times each unique reader viewed the ad, the average time spent with the ad and the click-through rate per ad to an advertiser’s website.”
This could in fact have an impact on ad rates, because many titles do count on digital circulation to fill the gap in the print numbers. But, as Sebastian notes, digital editions “comprised just 3.8% of magazines’ total circulation through the first half of 2014, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks media circulation. That’s up [from] 3.3% the prior year.”
D.B. Hebbard in Talking New Media disputes those figures, noting that “the vast majority of digital editions are not audited. How big that “vast” number is remains a mystery, but as Hebbard notes, “the fact is that publishers such as Condé Nast and Hearst have been driving readership to digital editions in order to cut production and distribution costs. What MediaVest seems to be doing is saying that the more this is done, the less likely the advertising will be priced using print advertising standards.”
While naturally we don’t want to see ad rates drop, we do see the reasoning behind MediaVest’s line in the sand on this issue. The value of a print ad versus a digital ad are different, there is no arguing that, and by making sure publishers break out their circulation accordingly, MediaVest is recognizing that fact in a very public way. Now it’s incumbent on the publishing world to figure out how to get advertisers the information they truly want, not broad sweeping stats on social success.
This is getting interesting.