Ever-adaptable mag biz unrolls new metric tools

RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM: Embedded chips could track reading statistics

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The theme wasn't quite "Mission Accomplished" at last week's magazine research symposium in New York, but it could have been "Getting There."

David Verklin, CEO, Carat Americas, styled the day-presented by Carat and Meredith Corp. in partnership with Advertising Age-as a celebration of magazines' adaptability and resourcefulness in the face of challenges on all sides.

From consolidation at clients, agencies and media companies to globalization to the advent of new technology, the magazine business has its hands full trying to grow, he said. "It is uncomfortable at times," he said. "But no one can argue that the business isn't dynamic."

Research efforts from media agencies, publishers and others have quickly-almost abruptly-taken full flight, Mr. Verklin said. "It's a little bit like 'Revenge of the Nerds,' isn't it?" he asked.

The presenters that followed talked up attempts to deliver metrics more quickly, pressing the industry to develop passive measurement tools that would determine a single issue's audience without the use of surveys and sampling.

"Will print be left out of media plans if it isn't measured passively?" asked Jay Mattlin, VP-research for new ventures, Mediamark Research. "The hope for doing this lies with RFID," he said, referring to a plan to embed radio frequency identification chips into magazine issues to track when they are read and by who.

Roberta McConochie, who was there as a representative of Project Apollo, the Arbitron-VNU joint venture, is also trying to achieve near-passive measurement of magazine consumption. This year and next, Project Apollo is performing limited field tests of second-generation prototypes that involve placing tags in magazines. The team will give a substantive update at the ARF Media Symposium on June 22.

Research consultant Rebecca McPheters said Readership.com, her effort to provide rapid audience data for magazines, will end beta testing in the next few weeks and seek accreditation from the Media Rating Council next year.

And in a development more likely to please advertisers than magazine editors, Hall's Reports said it will begin selling syndicated counts of brand mentions across more than 100 magazines by January.
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