BPA's Hansen ponders future metrics for tablets

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As the introduction of the second version of Apple's iPad spurs the continued adoption of wireless tablet devices, media companies wrestle with the many questions they raise. Will specialized tablet publications like News Corp.'s The Daily prove a profitable avenue? Will it become essential for every magazine brand to have a mobile app? Will it always be necessary to develop different apps for different operating systems?

Questions regarding how tablet editions will be measured as an advertising medium must also be considered, said Glenn Hansen, president-CEO of BPA Worldwide. “The metrics you're looking at now might not be the metrics of the future,” he said. “In January 2010, we revised the definition of a magazine or newspaper to take into account the number of devices that consume these media and how publishers need to provide content suitable for each device. The second step is to start to think about usage metrics.”

It's more complicated than it seems on the surface. If tablet editions of magazines and newspapers are measured as are the digital editions currently produced by DMEs (digital media enablers) such as NXTbook, Texterity and Zinio, they would be counted as copies, similar to newsstand, subscription and controlled-circulation print products. On the other hand, if media buyers want to take advantage of the capabilities of digital measurement, the metrics required would be very different.

“We are seeing more buyers express interest in the level of engagement,” Hansen said. “They don't only want to know the number of downloads but also how long users stay in the app, what they look at and what [content] they share with others.”

At this time, BPA isn't being asked to collect or audit metrics like those, but “it seems that this will be the direction a buyer would want to take,” Hansen said. “We're currently reporting digital editions, including tablet editions, in terms of subscribers and copies. We're just saying, "Publishers, have your eye on the possibility that those metrics could change based on market demand.' ”

In the meantime, BPA is in the process of working with DMEs to create benchmarks for digital editions. “The companies that are providing the software in the digital space can capture information across all types of digital magazines. They can put together benchmarks based on averages without having to name individual companies,” Hansen said.

He continued: “Some publishers are afraid that the rate of consumption of digital editions is low, and they're afraid to go public with that. But, without benchmarks, no one really knows what a good or bad open rate is. We're interested in trying to get some benchmarking data out there so that a conversation can occur.” He said he expects to be able to provide benchmarks for digital editions later this year.

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