People Gives Market-Research Surveys a Data Makeover

Time Inc. Publication Partners with Beauty Survey Platform Poshly for Reader Data

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Offering people free stuff in exchange for a little information about their product preferences is an age-old approach to market research and data collection.

In the past weeks, Time Inc.'s People embarked on a modern day version of just such a program that could double as a data generator and a new sponsorship revenue stream. The publisher launched a giveaways page in its Style section managed by Poshly, a survey platform for beauty brands, and since launch has seen a steady stream of information flowing in from site visitors about the entertainment media they consume, their beauty regimens, and what they think of People.

"We're seeing data collected at an alarmingly high rate," said Joseph LaFalce, executive director of business development and digital entertainment at People. "It's almost a focus group of our audience for product development."

The concept is simple: a Poshly-managed page features several products including Aesop's Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm and a chlorine-removing T3 Source showerhead, each of which site visitors can register for chance to win after responding to a series of survey questions. Questions range from standard demographic inquiries about age range and gender to whether a respondent uses anti-aging facial products or which network he prefers to watch for red carpet coverage during awards season.

People is on track to generate over 36 million survey responses by the end of the year, said Mr. LaFalce, noting that so far the publication is seeing an average of 20 questions answered per second. People intends to use the information for product development and "editorial evolution," he said.

People is Time Inc.'s cash cow, representing about 20% of the company's overall revenue. But its print ad revenue and newsstand sales have declined amid a bruising environment for weekly magazines. That makes digital ad sales and subscriptions more important than ever. Meanwhile, Time Inc. has spent months searching for an executive to oversee the magazine and its sibling title Entertainment Weekly -- a position that remains vacant.

No direct influence -- yet
There is no direct influence of the data gleaned through the Poshly giveaways on editorial products yet, said Mr. LaFalce, though he said it helped solidify an idea for a new email newsletter focused on content related to ABC's "The Bachelor." The newsletter launched two weeks ago and now has 40,000 subscribers, some of whom in Poshly surveys said they watch the show. Dunkin Donuts is a sponsor of the newsletter.

People is the first publisher that Poshly, launched in 2012, has signed as a client. The company collects, stores and manages all the data from surveys it hosts for its clients, though clients own the data associated with their surveys. Reports provide aggregated, anonymized insights on survey participants, and while clients such as People don't have access to personalized profiles of survey participants, they do get email addresses, in part to notify them if they've won a prize.

Poshly has no intentions of packaging its data for third party use, said Doreen Bloch, Poshly founder and CEO. "We're very passionate about proprietary data," she said, adding that the company is actively seeking out other supplemental data to acquire.

Though it's early days, Mr. LaFalce suggested there may be a place for the platform to be used in other types of content on People, or perhaps rolled out with other Time Inc. titles, though that has yet to be explored.