At the same time, the newspaper industry is studying strategies to capture some business that could be lost by magazines and other media as a result of the recent landmark tobacco settlement.
The Newspaper Association of America last week began surveying its members to determine if its Newspaper National Network should add tobacco to a list of target categories. More than 85% of newspaper readers are over 18.
Magazines are trying to get a clearer picture of what percentage of their readers are over 18. At a meeting earlier this month in the New York offices of Grey Advertising, Mediamark Research Inc., Simmons Market Research Bureau, Audits & Surveys and Roper Starch Worldwide presented preliminary proposals to the leading tobacco marketers for a study that would measure more than 500 titles for under-18 readership.
Magazine Publishers of America has also collected proposals from the research companies and is disseminating the information to its members. Still not known is who ultimately will decide which method is best-and who will foot the bill for the new study.
WHO CHOOSES METHOD?
"It's unclear right now as to who or what group will be making the decision about which is the best research method for this purpose," said Joel Klein, senior VP at Roper Starch. "Although obviously, the tobacco industry will be the one who will have to be able to provide the information to the [Food & Drug Administration]."
The settlement signed by the tobacco companies would require them to follow FDA rules in determining where they run print ads. Print titles with either more than 15% of their readership under 18 or more than 2 million under-18 readers would only be able to run b&w text ads.
Tobacco marketers are expected to place ads in magazines that don't face such restrictions.
For magazines, the problem with the FDA requirement is under-18 readership has never been studied by such researchers as MRI and Simmons as closely as have adult audiences.
MOSTLY TEEN STUDIES
Most underage studies that exist are teen studies-such as Simmons' STARS and MRI's Teenmark-and measure readership of 70 to 80 titles primarily aimed at the teen market, such as K-III Communications' Seventeen, or Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's YM.
"Those studies are also primarily marketing studies, and contain a lot of product data. They've been established for a different purpose than the total audience surveys," said Kathi Love, VP-research at MPA.
Expanding the number of titles in the existing teen studies is also not a viable option, said MRI Chairman-CEO Alan Tessier.
"Showing teens logos from 500 magazines, most of which are irrelevant to them, is not very good research practice. What we need is a fresh look at the whole thing, and it really needs to be an adult and teen study," Mr. Tessier said.
That leaves the magazine industry looking at other options.
Audits & Surveys' first total audience study, using a different methodology than that used by MRI and Simmons, is due out in October. Paul Donato, Audits & Surveys' senior VP-director of media and communications research, said approximately 3,000 teens will be included in anticipation of the tobacco regulations.
A&S USES MAIL SURVEY
The researcher uses a mailed survey, as opposed to MRI and Simmons, which rely on personal interviews. The mailed survey, Mr. Donato said, makes it easier to measure a larger number of titles.
MRI has proposed adding 6,000 teens to its audience sample base, but that won't be possible for at least a year, said Mr. Tessier.
Simmons President Rebecca McPheters said she has presented "a variety of approaches," but added, "the most important aspect of any study would be that we would be able to provide high-quality data, and data that [were] truly comparable to an adult audience."
Newspapers, meanwhile, are debating whether to chase the business if it comes free.
"We are doing some fact-finding," said John Sturm, president-CEO of NAA.
"Our primary criterion is to look where newspapers have a small share of the overall advertising market, and tobacco fits," he said.