BoSacks Offers Keen Insights on the MPA 360 Numbers

mpa360-graphic1Earlier this year the Association of Magazine Media (MPA) rolled out Magazine Media 360, a new way to measure audience engagement across all channels, print and digital, based largely on social engagement.

The recent numbers are out and BoSacks has done a deep dive into what it all means.

“As I read the most recent chart derived from the 360⁰ numbers there was not a single negative number of followers for any magazine, nor was there a difference in the percent of Differential in Followers from September to October,” BoSacks notes.  “So, Bravo to all! Web followers have not gone down in a month and in some cases they have grown considerably. According to the report, there are now mostly positive numbers for the magazine industry.”

Meanwhile, actual sales figures via The MagNet reports show that magazine sales took a pretty significant drop in Q3. (BoSacks notes that this is due in large part to the demise of Source Interlink and the huge distribution gap this left in the industry. It’s hard to sell magazines if they aren’t getting into the newsstands.)

So, actual sales are down, but according to the MPA we should be celebrating because social engagement is up? Not in the current marketplace, where the bulk of a publisher’s revenue still comes from print, BoSacks reminds us.

“There has been some progress in gaining some web dollars in this exchange, but in most cases, they haven’t come close yet to a print replacement,” he notes.

“Here’s a question. What does a “like” mean to your business? Does it mean anything at all?” BoSacks asks. “The fact that it is now more important to track ‘likes on Facebook, pictures on Instagram, and conversations on Google+ rather than to face the nuts and bolts realities of the publishing business’ main revenue streams still seems a bit unusual.  I must admit that eventually some of those numbers might be more important than actual print statistics, but not yet and not now, and not the numbers we are collecting.”

This is especially true, BoSacks reminds us, in light of recent research that shows brands are largely wasting their time on social media.

As we’ve asked in a previous post about the new measurement tactics, is the digital reader who “likes” a post on Facebook as valuable to the publisher as a subscribed customer to the print magazine? Of course not. The level of engagement can’t be compared in any real depth, and we water down our results by painting all “eyes” with the same broad brush.

At the end of the day, BoSacks comes down firmly on the side of reality and common sense.

“My analysis comes down to this: likes are easier to get than selling a magazine on the newsstand. Likes are easier to cajole from a free and easy public than increasing subscription sales. A like has no commitment, no out of pocket expense by the liker, and means nothing to anyone except those who propose to somehow profit from being liked,” he writes.

“It seems clear to me that the more time our readers spend with our ancillary web products, the less time they spend with our original major revenue — producing print magazines. And that is a real business conundrum,” he notes.

As an industry we need a clear, comprehensive look at the entire picture – digital and print, social shares and ad sales. BoSacks is spot on here; we encourage you to read his complete article.