Paul Donato, who spearheaded the new methodology as senior VP at Audits & Surveys, is now president-CEO of Kantar Media Research, which has established a joint venture with his former employer to launch the new magazine research study.
The joint venture, M2 Magazine Metrics, will be out in the field for the 1998 Magazine Readership Survey this September with mailed questionnaires. Results will be available early next year.
OF INTEREST TO TOBACCO COS.
The M2 study is planned as a full-fledged competitor in the magazine research field, and its results could be of special interest to tobacco marketers as they try to target magazine campaigns away from underage smokers.
Kantar is a part owner in Simmons Market Research Bureau, producer of the Study of Media & Markets, one of two other major magazine readership surveys. Through Kantar's relationship with Simmons, the SMM study will be linked to M2 so the two can be used in concert, Mr. Donato said.
M2 and SMM will complement each other, with M2 acting as the magazine readership component and SMM providing data on respondents' other media preferences and product usage, Mr. Donato said.
Simmons also has enhanced SMM to increase sample sizes and improve response rates by gathering data through personal interviews for demographic information, but leaving a self-administered questionnaire behind for respondents to complete.
Major advertisers from the automotive, computer hardware and software, and tobacco categories have given their input into the new study's methods and questionnaires, Mr. Donato said. Advertisers like that M2 will be able to measure an unlimited number of magazines, unlike Simmons and rival Mediamark Research Inc., whose surveys currently are constricted by methodology to about 200 titles.
WELCOMED BY FORD
"Ford Motor Co. is interested in all types of research, especially for print, which is our most heavily used medium behind broadcast television," said Herb Meyers, print media manager for the carmaker. "J.D. Power is an excellent survey, but it is confined to 125 magazines, which means some of the smaller titles get left out."
The Audits & Surveys pilot study caused a stir in magazine publishing circles in 1996 when Conde Nast Publications publicly backed the idea and Mr. Donato's efforts because of the publisher's growing disenchantment with available research studies, most notably those conducted by MRI and Simmons.
Mr. Donato's new method, eschewing personal interviews in favor of a mailed survey and concentrating strictly on magazine read- ership rather than trying to gather product and multimedia information from the same respondents, has found support among some ad agencies, advertisers and publishers.
The M2 study uses a database of each magazine's subscriber files, provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, to guarantee every magazine will have a stable sample size. Sample size bounce, a criticism leveled at MRI's methodology, is what happens when not enough respondents are regular readers of a title, thus causing results to vary from year to year.
BETTER DEMOGRAPHIC REACH
The M2 survey, Mr. Donato believes, also will better reach demographic groups, such as affluent and professional/managerial women, that are difficult to reach with the personal interview method. M2 will have the ability to measure an unlimited number of titles and will survey subscribers, newsstand buyers and pass-along readers.
M2 will be able to measure teens the same way it does adult readers, a benefit to the tobacco industry, which is currently in negotiations to restrict advertising of its products to adults over 18.
"Tobacco companies need this to support their use of magazines against the guidelines being proposed," said MRI Chairman-CEO Alain Tessier.
"The question the industry has to deal with is whether this design is adequate for magazine media research as a whole," he said. "Simmons and MRI co-existed for many years until the Simmons study fell apart [after Simmons changed the survey's methodology], so I suppose we can, too. [M2] certainly has utility for tobacco advertisements if there is a settlement."