What do publishers and agencies need to do to change the magazine audience conversation?

In the second part of this Supported By series we ask how magazine publishers and agencies need to change to adapt to multiplatform audiences as the new measurement metric.

While the move by Australia’s three major magazine publishers to cut ties with the circulation audit may have surprised people in some quarters, anyone watching the industry closely for the past few years will have seen them gearing up for the shift.

Structural changes at the likes of Bauer Media, Pacific Magazines and NewsLifeMedia have not just come from the editorial side, but also in the sales function, as they look to bring them closer together and push the total masthead story, rather than the hard copy solution.

Chan: “Conversations have changed”

“If you go back 10 years we sold pages in our magazines and we were very product orientated,” says Bauer Media CEO Nick Chan. “Those conversations have changed. Increasingly they are about marketing solutions for our clients.

“The advantage we have as magazine brands is that we still create a whole lot of content ourselves as well as targeted audiences and that enables us to customise solutions in a much more effective way.”

NewsLifeMedia CEO Nicole Sheffield argues: “Agencies and clients have always thought this way. They want a solution-based approach with the best combination of assets to achieve their desired result in the most efficient and effective way possible. Our job is to demonstrate that our solutions are the best way to do that.”

Sheffield has overseen the creation of the Campaign Solutions Studio – a specialist unit to deliver custom-built solutions for advertisers. The full-service offering, set up in 2015, spans media, content, and creative strategy, through to production, insights, campaign management and implementation.

“Our investment in this area ensures we have the capabilities required to build audience-based solutions,” says Sheffield.

What does it all mean for agencies?

But while those shifts have already started inside publishers, it leaves their biggest customers, media agencies, needing to adopt a new approach.

Martin Orliac, GM of Omnicom agency Annalect, says agencies need to adjust their Key Performance Indicators so that they meaningfully correlate to traditional KPIs. This would give marketing decision-makers “confidence in reallocating media budget towards the most effective mix, as defined by the media data modelling teams”, he claims.

Orliac: marketers need confidence to reallocate budgets

But it’s clear it will take some time for the industry to feel comfortable operating in this landscape.

When asked what publishers should be doing to help agencies adapt—or at least to feel more confident in them — Steve Allen, CEO of Fusion Strategy says bluntly: “They can’t.

“We have always championed the independent auditing of circulations and we happen to be one of the agencies that use circulation constantly. We practically never put something to a client without noting the circulation and the cost efficiency of competing titles on the basis of circulation.

“Of course we immediately segue from that simple evaluation into the specific target audience, but we would far prefer that there was still a gauge on how they were performing in terms of actual circulation. Now it’s readership or nothing.”

PHD’s Mark Coad is happy with the changes

PHD’s national CEO Mark Coad feels differently, saying he’s happy with the supplied readership metrics. “I don’t expect much more of the major publishers than what we are getting,” he says.

Where do publishers need to put their money?

Annalect’s Orliac says it’s important that publishers make sure agencies and clients genuinely understand the audiences they have if they are to accelerate decision-making for media buyers and their clients.

He urges publishers to invest in research and technology to allow them to track segments and analyse behaviour to be able to “clearly articulate in plain English who the audience is, what their interests are, what content they consume and when, and how big these audiences are”.

“Where publishers have first-party data available, this needs to be carefully managed, maintained and curated,” he says.

Pacific Magazines CEO, Gereurd Roberts, says data and insights are a key focus. “It is not just understanding the audience we have, but how they actually behave across the different platforms. As we head more into this multi-platform space, we increasingly focus our attention on communicating the relationship we have with consumers across social vs. digital and print and the opportunities for clients to engage differently inside each individual platform.

Pacific Magazines CEO Gereurd Roberts

“The segmentation of our audience is also something of note – not just understanding them but the differentiation between casuals and addicts, and their value to our clients. We need to improve the way we package our audiences into who they are, where we can touch them and how we can make them more accessible to our advertisers.”

Matt James, CEO of Publicis Media Australia and New Zealand, says it’s vital that publishers invest in developing a single customer ID that can be tracked across all of a brand’s assets and, by default, enable the advertiser to buy a true composite CPM or attributable currency.

NewsLifeMedia’s Sheffield says the company has invested heavily in tools which allow them to track users across their network.

“This has never been more important with the rate of change and distraction in our world today,” she says.

“If you can demonstrate true understanding and thought leadership around your audiences, and show agencies this understanding as it relates to their client problems, then you will be successful.”

The publisher has been collecting social sign-in data, subscription data, behavioural data based on consumption of content on their network, as well as tapping into wider News Corp companies like Unruly’s Pulse, which measures emotional engagement and Storyful, which allows them to listen to social platforms and provide real-time actionable insights on content trends and behaviours. In 2015 they also began using News Connect, powered by Quantium.

Sheffield: Publishers need to “demonstrate true understanding and thought leadership around your audiences”

“News Connect gives us powerful data sets to identify and target custom audience segments across the News Digital Networks Australia network of brands,” explains Sheffield. “We are able to fuse data from over 10 million News Corp readers from our digital networks together with the shopping and purchase behaviour of over eight million shoppers to yield an incredibly rich data pool to layer over the vast supply of our digital inventory.

“We have this in place to enrich our understanding of who our audiences are, what they are buying and the implications for this in terms of tailoring content and advertising.”

The publisher also recently launched female content platform after studying the content consumption habits and preferences of Australian women.

“I think that is a great example of how we are listening to our audiences’ evolving needs both from a content perspective and also from an advertising message perspective,” says Sheffield.

Lessons from across the pond

Even in the US, where multiplatform has been standard for a number of years, things are still complicated.

Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of the Magazine Publishers of America, says “business is going very well for many of our members as they continue to focus on and succeed at growing their businesses across platforms”.

However, Scott Hagedorn, CEO of one of the fastest growing media agencies, Hearts & Science, says publishers need to provide “a lot more education on their end with full transparency on what is possible”.

Hearts & Science’s Scott Hagedorn wants more flexibility

“They also need to be more flexible, have more people on board that understand the space and can package and sell it, both from a print and digital perspective combined,” he says.

But he concedes agencies need “a lot more openness to change and test/learn”.

Data is the new black

As publisher offerings become more sophisticated, publishers need to be constantly aware of data being generated, data that could be generated and using that data in a way that adds value to agencies and their clients from a quality, relevancy and measurement perspective, according to Annalect’s Orliac.

“The magazines who will ultimately win are the ones who will invest the most in maximising client value through deep integrations and partnerships with agency measurement frameworks and associated technology partners.”

So how can publishers get smarter about getting and using digital data?

Sheffield admits: “There are many challenges including the ability to measure across an increasing number of different digital devices such as smart appliances and wearables, managing different data sets and metrics and having clearly defined customer definitions. This may mean having different cross-platform currencies.”

Last year Digiday reported that Bauer UK was considering introducing log-ins for its apps to provide agencies and clients with more data around its audiences, after enjoying success with this model with its radio product, Absolute Radio, where online registration called for age, gender, email and location.

Would Australian publishers consider introducing such requirements?

“On one hand log-ins would be fantastic, but if they were to make it difficult for audiences to actually engage with us long term, to be a barrier, that would not be an ideal situation,” says Bauer’s Chan.

“There are other areas where we have very rich data part and parcel of our offering — like our Bounty bags where we have that parenting and maternity area covered. If the question is ‘Is data going to be an ever-increasing part of our offering?’ then yes, it will be. I think it’s more of a case-by-case basis.”

Bounty Bags are allowing Bauer to learn more about its audience

While it all sounds complicated PHD’s Coad has a refreshingly simple way of looking at the measurement issues. While audience metrics are the currency by which publishers put a value on their media inventory, the ultimate measure of effectiveness is how publishers help advertisers move products and services.

He feels publishers should strive to better understand the role they are playing in driving business objectives for their clients. Does that mean he’d like to see magazines providing evidence for how content affected the sales of products and services?

“I don’t expect magazines to provide business metrics because I don’t see that as possible,” he says.

“But when they are deciding what metrics they ought to provide from a readership point of view, the ultimate goal of an advertiser is to sell products and services, so anything they can do to help that long-term objective is going to put them in better stead.”

It may be then that the multiplatform audience solution is just the first phase in establishing a new set of metrics for magazine brands to prove their worth in an increasingly complicated media landscape.


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