Proving print ads’ ROI

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As online advertising finally catches on in nontechnology b-to-b media, advertisers are demanding more hard data to back up their decisions to advertise in print. With ready-made programs and custom research, third-party providers of readership studies may offer some solutions. Media Business found several ways publishers are using readership studies to increase print advertising.

Create programs to add sizzle to ad study results.

Michael Grossman, publisher of Pennwell’s Electric Light & Power and Utility Automation & Engineering T&D, schedules Baxter Ad Effectiveness Studies four times a year for each of his publications. At year-end, every advertiser that has appeared in those issues receives a 10-page study that includes a profile of the publication’s readers, followed by a chart with the reader response scores of all the advertisers that allows each one to see how its advertising performed in comparison to the others.

“Then we give awards to advertisers with the best scores,” Grossman said. With their competitive juices flowing, advertisers really notice this free “value-added” program, he said.

Turn a sales call into a consultation.

While your salespeople may not be experts in explaining research, they don’t have to be. Marketing managers, research directors and editors can be brought into an advertiser’s office to present ad readership or editorial readership results.

Rhonda McGee, director of research for the Boston division of Reed Business Information, recently launched Readex ad studies with two of her publications, EDN and Design News. She also has accompanied salespeople to visit advertisers, changing the dynamic of the meeting from a sales call to a consultation. “The worst performers can actually learn the most,” she said.

Based on feedback such as, “This is exactly what we need to justify our advertising,” McGee is rolling out Readex studies to her other publications before the end of the year.

Survey readers to find new opportunities.

“If you listen to the readership, they’ll tell you exactly what to do,” said Gary Rubin, chief publications officer and group publisher, Society for Human Resource Management. HR Magazine, the association’s flagship monthly magazine, conducts a readership study every year, providing insight into what executives are thinking-and buying.

Based on readership study results, SHRM recently launched an online Technology Forum. “It’s a microsite, in essence, with a periodic e-newsletter and Web casts,” Rubin said, adding that the magazine also instituted more technology coverage and hired a dedicated technology editor.

Mark Sande, general manager of 101communications’ Education Technology Media Group, also commissions annual third-party reader surveys, but he supplements the big study with e-mail surveys “done on the fly” by a marketing manager. These surveys enable Sande’s sales force to jump on a hot segment armed with specific information about the needs of the market, he said.

Use research to support digital editions.

Do you want to test digital editions of your publication but worry about how advertisers will respond? Evidence is mounting that readers might help you make the case.

101communications recently released a study of 75,000 print and digital subscribers to four of its titles, conducted independently by Mosaic Media Partners and Proximity Marketing. It showed that print and digital readers behave similarly and respond to ads equally well.

Tim Tobeck, VP-group publisher of Penn-well’s Oil & Gas Journal, found the same thing when comparing print and digital subscribers. “I was surprised to find almost no differences,” he said. “Digital readers are as strong as print readers in terms of the amount of time they spend, the number of issues they read. Almost every category is within 2% or 3%.”

Tobeck almost tripled OGJ’s paid subscribers to 80,000 from 30,000 by adding a digital edition aimed primarily at subscribers outside the U.S. “There are a lot of questions about digital readership,” he noted. “Now we can demonstrate that digital is just another way of presenting the good stuff we have in our magazine.”

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