The publishing industry trade group issued a series of requests at its "Magazines and New Media" conference in New York. Chief among them was the need to measure both total number of unduplicated site visitors and the depth of consumer interactivity.
"We'd like to engage in a detailed discussion with the advertising community and have a third party audit, validate and certify the reports," said Bruce Judson, general manager of Time Inc. New Media and chairman of the MPA task force.
Ultimately, he said, it is people, usage and visits that matter, rather than "hits" within a site which may reflect 20 or more mouse clicks by a single visitor to a home page.
Other MPA proposals include measuring the total number of paying users, the total audience that saw a page with an ad on it and the number of users that clicked on an ad.
Much of what the MPA proposes is already being developed. Third-party monitors from Nielsen Media Research to Arbitron to the Audit Bureau of Circulations have moved to establish themselves as new-media people counters, as have new companies like Internet Profiles Corp. and NetCount.
The Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment (CASIE), an ad industry group, is expected to issue its draft guidelines on measuring Internet activity by the end of the month. That group is supporting a tool called the Interactive Information Index, from Arbitron NewMedia, ASI Research and Next Century Media, a New Paltz, N.Y., consultancy.
"It is time for us to get ahead of the curve," said James Guthrie, exec VP of the MPA. "We have over 200 magazines online with more people opening Web sites by the hour. We should be leading the dialogue instead of listening to others."
Messrs. Judson and Guthrie both emphasized they are seeking input from advertisers and agencies and other media.
Though the MPA's announcement caught the Newspaper Association of America by surprise, Randy Bennett, new-media director for the Reston, Va.-based newspaper trade group, said it was "willing to work with the magazine publishers as well as other industry groups such as CASIE" to develop standards.
Agencies appear unlikely to care who takes the lead as long as there is some good, quantifiable information to use in their media planning.
"The info that's out there right now is totally unverified and unaudited," said Alec Gerster, exec VP-director of media at Grey Advertising, New York. The current situation, he said, is "like having ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox supply their own TV ratings."
Stuart Gray, senior VP-research at BBDO, also urged one standard.
"The problem with this is creating unanimity," he said. "It would be a problem if you have two different groups establishing two different standards."
To encourage dialogue, the MPA said it would carry its proposals on its Web site (http://www.evolution.com/MPA) through the end of the month.