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Forbes to measure print advertising by online behavior

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Forbes Media, comScore and Starcom MediaVest have teamed up to develop a methodology for measuring the effectiveness of print advertising in Forbes by tracking changes in readers' behavior online. By working with a leading company in online measurement and a major agency, Forbes' Chief Brand Officer Bruce Rogers, who initiated the project, hopes to establish a research practice that other publishers and agencies can use to bring greater accountability to print advertising.

Digital Directions: Ever since advertisers discovered online metrics that reveal how their ads are performing on the Internet, they have pushed publishers to prove that print advertising works. How are you trying to solve that problem?

Bruce Rogers: We reinvigorated and rearchitected our magazine to make it highly complementary to the Web; but we didn't have a way to measure the impact of advertising in Forbes magazine with accountability measures that match what we have for digital media. We could do surveys based on what people say they will do [after they see an ad], but we didn't have behavioral data for print like we have for online.

We know that print advertising is a point of inspiration for action. What typically happens when people are inspired is that they go to the Web and do research. I wanted to find a simple way to measure the direct impact of advertising—which is inspiring a person to act—in terms of visits to the advertiser's website or searches for words around the advertiser's brand. So I went around to research firms to ask how we could do this in a cost-effective way, which for me is in the range of $15,000 to $20,000.

Together, comScore and I came up with a profoundly simple solution, an ad effectiveness study where we're comparing the online behavior of a group that has been exposed to advertising and a group that has not. The point of difference is whether the person saw the ad in Forbes.

Once we put the methodology together, we reached out to one of the preeminent voices and advocates for print advertising, Robin Steinberg [senior VP-director of publisher investment and activation] at Starcom MediaVest Group. She helped us develop our thoughts, and MediaVest is working with us to select advertiser partners to be the focus of the study.

Digital Directions: How far along are you?

Rogers: We're getting ready to implement it. We'll have data to share after the first quarter.

Digital Directions: What is the process?

Rogers: We start by e-mailing subscribers with invitations to participate in a survey. We ask whether or not they read the issue in which an ad appeared. If they say yes, they go into the test group. If not, they go into the control group. All respondents are “cookied,” and comScore tags them on the advertiser's website. This gives us the mechanism to watch behavior in real time and to match that behavior with whether or not the person had been exposed to the print campaign. Our goal is to get 1,000 control and 1,000 test respondents. We pace out the survey over a period of time and track [the survey takers] for about three months, because response to print advertising may not be immediate and we want to gauge the impact of frequency.

Digital Directions: What metrics are you gathering?

Rogers: First, we're measuring visits to the advertiser's site and the depth and quality of that visitation. Second, we'll do an analysis of search activity around keywords and brand terms related to the advertiser. Then, when we start to put all the interactions together, we'll be able to do a fairly high-level analysis of advertising effectiveness.

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