MPA Levels Playing Field for Publishers’ Tablet Data

Asks publishers to use specific metrics, language

The varying sets of rules determining how magazines can access their tablet subscribers’ information across different platforms—Apple has always been especially stingy with the statistics—has long irked publishers. But as publishers begin to obtain and release more of the data concerning the use of their tablet apps, advertisers have been similarly vexed by the lack of analogous information from magazine to magazine, many of which use completely different metrics and terms.

Today, to drive advertising dollars on tablets, the Association of Magazine Media announced voluntary guidelines to give magazines a better way of measuring their digital editions.

The guidelines, developed by the trade association's Tablet Metrics Task Force (which includes representatives from Bonnier, Condé Nast, Forbes, Hearst Magazines, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Meredith Corp. and Time Inc.), include metrics like total consumer paid digital issues, and per-issue metrics like total number of tablet readers, total number of sessions, total time spent per reader and average number of sessions per reader. The MPA, which also consulted with ad agencies on the guidelines, is also asking that publishers use specific language to make it easier for advertisers to compare these metrics.

“There is so much going on in the tablet area, and there is so much different language and such a need for some consistency and clarity to help our advertising partners that we decided to form this task force,” Nina Link, the president and chief executive of the MPA, told The New York Times.

With digital editions only making up about 1 percent of total magazine circulation, publishers have only recently begun opening up these stores of information to advertisers. Condé Nast announced last month that it would begin releasing certain iPad edition metrics, plus ad-specific metrics for advertisers who invest in links or premium ads. Earlier today, Hearst made a similar statement that it also plans to start releasing iPad metrics. Time Inc. said it would follow suit, but none have released firm time frames for the release of their data.

Meanwhile, the Audit Bureau of Circulations has endorsed new rules for consumers magazines' reporting of digital editions. It's expected to formally approve them in July, with the new format anticipated to take effect July 1, 2013.

Prominent ad buyer Robin Steinberg of Mediavest called the voluntary guidelines an "excellent first start" to creating a new measurement model for tablet editions. Important next steps will be to have the numbers measured by an independent third party and the time line for release sped up, however, she said. The MPA's current recommendations call for magazines to release their digital metrics 10 weeks after their on-sale date for monthlies and seven weeks in the case of weeklies.

"While these guidelines are voluntary," added Steinberg, "it will be interesting to see who leads and who follows."



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