|Steve Greenberger, former top print specialist at Zenith Media is now senior VP-strategic marketing officer at DJG Marketing.
Having spent time in both camps, MediaWorks gets his perspective on circulation scandals and what kinds of metrics magazines should use going forward.
MediaWorks: Are print buyers truly upset about the quality of paid circulation, sponsored sales and third-party subscriptions, or do their complaints include a degree of posturing for negotiations?
Steve Greenberger: What buyers and planners are genuinely upset about is that there are problems with the numbers they’ve been using in paid circulation. They’ve seen Gruner & Jahr come up with incorrectly reported circulation figures; they’ve seen changes required because of EBSCO Consumer Marketing Services and InFlight. While the buyers and planners used to use, for the most part, the publisher’s statements, now they’re going to need to also take a very close examination of the audited statements, which haven’t been coming out as frequently as desired. It’s almost doubled the amount of work they have to do.
While a few magazines may actually require adjustments and rebates to advertisers, unfortunately all magazines are placed under the magnifying class for potential adjustment.
MediaWorks: Do you agree with industry leaders like Jack Kliger, the new MPA chairman and president-CEO at Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., that rate base is an archaic and counterproductive way for magazines to set ad rates?
Steve Greenberger: Despite everything that he said, what’s really important is a new, improved metric for measuring audience which will include both primary and secondary readership, primary being the purchaser and people in the household that read it and secondary being everyone else. I don’t think that you can from walk away from the value of circulation and rate base entirely, because circulation and the strength of circulation is the foundation for any new audience measurement.
Jack Kliger’s on target. You need new metrics. But you really can’t walk away from circulation.
MediaWorks: You look at industry research all the time. How far has the business come in developing metrics to measure engagement, and what remains to be done?
Steve Greenberger: Most of the media today are going to start selling themselves the same way that magazines have been selling them all along, using a greater deep dive about who the users are. The one variable that’s been missing across all the media forms is engagement. And you have to do engagement across all media. I don’t need another metric to help me decide whether to use Golf or Golf Digest. I need a metric that will help us decide between media forms, including print, broadcast, radio and Internet. There have been a few cross-media efforts. There’s nothing that I could step up to the plate today with and bring to the computer and say “show me.”
MediaWorks: Where has unbundling the media agencies from creative agencies led media planning and buying?
Steve Greenberger: The interesting part about the advertising agencies is that the media stand-alone is running into a bit of a problem. The commissions that the stand-alones are able to get these days are too low to do the media planning and research at the level and quality that I believe they used to have in full service. What’s been missing is that extra jolt that marketing and marketing research used to provide in the creation of media planning and buying. That was a lot stronger when the media department was right down the hall. If the magazines and other media forms are going to need this kind of information, they can’t do it all without some extra support, which is something that DJG can provide. A lot of magazines need it now as they look to trim their support teams. They’re still going to need it.
MediaWorks: Where will the government’s investigations into newspaper and magazine circulation practices end?
Steve Greenberger: To speculate as to why, where, how the fed government is going to go -- no one can do that. But if there’s smoke in the woods, someone’s going to be interested. So the idea is to put that smoke out.