Since the inception of digital magazines, publishers have struggled to get advertisers to commit to tablet and other mobile content as they do with print. But a lack of measurement standards across a multitude of screen sizes and devices has made it hard to build advertisers' confidence in the medium.
The MPA—Association of Magazine Media and Adobe are making some headway, though. Following the MPA’s announcement last spring that it was working with digital companies to develop tools to track digital magazine readership, Adobe has built that capability into its Digital Publishing Suite software, which is used by most of the major magazine publishers.
“We’ve seen a lot of demand from marketers and brands to take advantage of targeted ad opportunities that exist through these new digital editions,” said Danny Winokur, vp and gm of digital media at Adobe. “But we’ve encountered some real friction in doing business between publishers and advertisers and their agencies within the digital arena because a lot of the well-defined, standard metrics that have provided the foundation for conducting business in the print world have not been available in the digital arena.”
It works like this: Adobe is letting publishers collect four different types of per-issue data: Total number of tablet readers per issue, total number of sessions per issue, average amount of time spent per reader per issue, and average number of sessions per reader per issue. To promote transparency—and get other digital platforms to adopt the standardized metrics—Adobe is also releasing the methodology behind its tools.
Publishers using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite will be able to access the measurement tools and view charts tracking the data via their existing analytics dashboard. They can then submit that data for audit by the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations). Within the next six months, the MPA hopes to be able to share that information with the 4A's.
“This software allows [publishers] to be able to get several disparate pieces of information in one reporting tool, which previously had taken many, many hours—if not days—to be able to do,” said Ethan Grey, svp of digital strategy and initiatives at the MPA. Eventually, the trade org would like to track other metrics involving reach and engagement, he said.
The measurement standards and methodology were agreed upon by the Digital Edition Standardization Initiative (DESI), an expanded version of the former MPA’s Tablet Metrics Task Force, which is made up of the MPA, 4A's, AAM, Adobe and several publishers. Grey said the MPA is also continuing to work with other digital companies like Zinio and Google to integrate measurement tools into their platforms.
Of course, measurement standards are only part of what's holding back advertiser investment in digital magazines. Scale remains a big issue, too, with digital circ only representing a scant 3 percent of total magazine circulation.