Affinity to Take on MRI

Jostling for a bigger piece of the magazine research pie, magazine research company Affinity plans to launch a new audience measurement service to be used with its Vista print rating service that gauges consumers’ recall and action taken in response to ads.

In launching the American Magazine Service, to be announced in July and rolled out in 2010, Affinity takes aim at rival MRI’s twice-annual, face-to-face Survey of the American Consumer. Tom Robinson, Affinity managing director, said its offering (essentially, ad recall measurement using Vista plus access to its audience study) will appeal to budget-sensitive publishers and agencies by being “dramatically” cheaper than MRI’s survey.

Affinity plans to contain costs by conducting the survey online and asking fewer questions—which could be a problem for buyers who prefer the breadth in MRI’s survey. (Some researchers have criticized the methodology used to conduct surveys online.) Affinity also will include fewer titles in its survey—150 versus MRI’s 250. Robinson noted that while Affinity’s survey would be shorter, it would be more print-specific. He also said Affinity will seek Media Rating Council accreditation before going to market.

For its part, MRI said its extensive survey informs the print planning and buying process. MRI is responding to demand for richer magazine audience data by moving to combine its own ad effectiveness service with issue-specific audience data later this year. About a dozen leading publishing companies and agencies are buying MRI issue-specific data, though MRI acknowledges that’s fewer than it had hoped for. Robinson said that validates Affinity’s decision to stick with a twice-annual frequency. “The marketplace has demonstrated there’s not a lot of utility for [issue-specific] data,” he said.

Clients of MRI’s issue-specific service believe in its value. Caryn Klein, vp, business research and insights at Time Inc., said the data are important for clients trying to understand the effects of their media mix. She added that the ad community is demanding the ability to rate magazines on the same basis as electronic media. “It’s no longer enough to provide just an average audience,” said Klein.  

Still, those familiar with Affinity’s new service said it holds promise. “The more granular we can get and the more targeted we can get, the more confidence we can have in magazines,” said Brenda White, senior vp, publishing activation director, Starcom USA.

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