Marketers Losing Respect for Magazines?

Fewer Rate Print as 'Highly Effective' at Brand Building

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Why are fewer marketing executives giving magazines brand-building respect?

Only 51% of marketers rated magazines as highly effective for building brand equity, according to research fielded this April for the Association of National Advertisers. That's down sharply from 67% in February 2007. Online and social media, on the other hand, got high marks this spring, their first time on the questionnaire.

TV, radio, newspapers and outdoor all slipped in marketers' eyes along with magazines, but brand building is supposed to be magazines' particular strong suit. And many magazines are already fighting for their lives: Monthlies' ad pages for issues from January through June landed nearly 23% below their level from the first half of last year, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

Some publishers had previously said a few bright spots were emerging in the second quarter, after monthlies lost more than 21% in the first, but results on the whole proved awful again.

So we asked three publishers for their reactions.

Sally Preston
Sally Preston
Sally Preston, senior VP-group publisher at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, said the fascination with everything new, along with digital media's emphasis on metrics such as clicks, is overshadowing magazines' influence on readers.

"Any other piece of information that's out there refutes that 100%," she said. "When you look at the purchase funnel, TV creates awareness the fastest. But when you explain to the consumer your attributes and when you're explaining your brand, print is that more than TV.

"It's the blessing and the curse in the grand scheme: Digital can provide all these metrics. By being able to get metrics, people are buying digital largely by virtue of metrics. So magazines have entered a new realm of metrics, based on things like purchase intent, things that are more pyschographics than anything. It's this double-edged sword, because the metrics are not at all talking about that user experience or readers' level of engagement.

"Sometimes we don't help ourselves -- we talk about the new stuff like new is always better. There's a place in the mix for all of that. I personally think that the savviest marketers are the ones that understand the best way to tell a story is to tell it across platforms."

Sabine Feldmann
Sabine Feldmann
Sabine Feldmann, VP-publisher of Shape, said the results reflect diminishing power for any individual channel. Magazines that are cornerstones of brands that also use digital and social media, however, are better at building other brands than ever.

"Neither online advertising nor social media were measured in 2007. And in 2007 the lines were much more well-defined. So it looks at especially magazines one-dimensionally. Looking at it this way, I'm not surprised the percentage would fall.

"The lines of the different channels are getting much more blurred. I think the title of publisher is completely outdated because it implies that one-dimensional-ness. I've thought of myself as a brand builder, as a chief brand officer. Online and social media have to be a part of a magazine's DNA to be successful. Shape.com just relaunched. If you look at our site, which was N/A in this research just two years ago, it is a huge part of the growth strategy for the brand. And social media is one component of online."

Howard Mittman
Howard Mittman Credit: Joseph Moran
Howard Mittman, publisher of Wired: It's all about the mix now.

"Since advertisers don't just play in one particular medium, and since most of our programs are integrated, Wired normally evaluates our brand's effectiveness across a variety of the mediums we offer our clients. What advertisers should be focusing on is what mix they need to use in order to maximize the effectiveness of their total spend. Looking at the mediums individually and assuming that all brands have the same needs seems to undermine the potential usefulness of the data. There is probably a more effective and less one-size-fits-all way for this study to present its findings."

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