Jack Kliger, president-CEO, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., has repeatedly warned the business to do something about it, particularly since he became chairman at the Magazine Publishers of America last fall. And 2006 is the year that the industry is awaiting results to several initiatives in line with Mr. Kliger's platform.
Not only do magazines need quicker measures, he argues, but their metrics should track total audiences and ad effectiveness.
Selling against rate bases only puts magazines at a disadvantage and obscures the increasing size of magazine audiences, he says.
"The landscape has changed around us," Mr. Kliger said in an interview. "Advertising and pricing have moved toward being more connected to effectiveness and return on investment. Magazines didn't create those parameters. We're just saying we want to live in that world and think we can compete effectively in that world."
Media planners for the most part seem to like the thrust. "We live in a very short-term measurement world," says Steve Lanzano, exec VP-general manager at MPG. "I need answers now. The time lag hurts because everybody wants immediate turnaround."
But speedier alternatives may be a long time coming. "It has been the same measurement system for 25 years," he says. "To get the attention of agencies, they need to come up with a whole different model."
That isn't to say no one is working on it. Mr. Kliger says he has seen at least 15 proposals to turn the tide. McPheters & Co.'s Readership.com, for one, is beta-testing a service designed to provide near real-time information on magazine audiences, reader engagement and magazine distribution, all broken down by individual issues. It plans a full rollout this year.
Andrew Swinand, exec VP-group client leader, Starcom USA, endorses instant accountability services such as Readership.com, and generally believes that advertisers are getting used to such real-time information, in terms not just of the number of people reached, but the effect their ads have on brand awareness, intent to buy or actual action taken.
"The ultimate cost or what you pay will move much more toward a model where publishers, once they have outcome-based accountability, will say `here's what I delivered and I need a premium,"' he says. If magazines don't improve their third-party metrics soon enough, he adds, publishers will have no choice once TV becomes fully digital and TV ratings become as precise as Web traffic numbers.
Once candidates for more real-time metrics are up and running, agencies and publishers will probably have to coalesce around one or a few of them to improve publishers' business prospects.
"The pace of change is too rapid," Mr. Kliger says. "The demands of advertisers for results and for measurable impacts are not going to wait."