Wednesday, April 11, 2007

PIB Scraps Monthly Reporting

BoSacks Speaks Out: One of the great comforts of doing this newsletter for as long as I have is that my base readers know what I will say before I have to say it. So tonight, I am going to wait to hear from you. What do you have to say about this news release from the MPA and the PIB? Please, . . . I would like to gather a collection of industry reactions. When I gather them together, I will broadcast my own at the same time.

FIB, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar's nearest approach to truth: the perigee of his eccentric orbit.
Ambrose Bierce (American Writer, Journalist and Editor, 1842-1914)

Mag Lag: PIB Scraps Monthly Reporting
by Joe Mandese fuseaction=Articles.showArticleHomePage&art_aid=5 8563

IN THE LATEST MOVE IN an ongoing trend reducing the flow of information about the advertising performance of major traditional media, the magazine industry Tuesday announced it would discontinue its monthly reports on advertising pages and revenues booked by major consumer magazine publishers. The reports, which have been distributed publicly to advertisers, agencies and the industry's trade press by the Publishers Information Bureau for more than a quarter century, will now be released quarterly effective with the first-quarter 2007 report.

The PIB, a division of the Magazine Publishers of America, said it was making the move to quarterly reports to provide a "broader context" on the supply and demand of consumer magazine advertising pages, and to dissuade advertisers, agencies and industry analysts from drawing conclusions based on the vagaries of monthly reports--but the move is the latest in a pattern of similar moves by other media trade groups over the past several years that appears to be suppressing, not enhancing the flow of information about the advertising performance of their member media companies.

After years of publicly reporting cable network advertising totals on a monthly basis, the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association suspended those reports in 2001 at the behest of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau. Last year, after years of publicly reporting the daypart and overall revenue totals of the Big 3 broadcast networks on a quarterly basis, the BCFM also suspended those.

After years of reporting indices and percent changes for national, network and local radio advertising results on a monthly basis, the Radio Advertising Bureau in December 2006 said it would discontinue distributing that data on a monthly basis, although it would continue to make it available via its Web site, and would begin distributing more robust data--including advertising dollar totals for radio--on a quarterly basis beginning this year. Radio's first quarterly results are scheduled to be released May 1.

Wayne Eadie, president of the PIB, said the magazine industry's move was also being made to conform with how other media trade groups report their medium's advertising results. The Newspaper Association of America has historically reported newspaper ad volume quarterly, and the Television Bureau of Advertising has reported broadcast ad revenues quarterly. The CAB has not reported any cable advertising revenues for years.

One trade group that continues to report its data on a monthly basis, and is actually expanding it to include new sources of data such as online and digital media sales, and even revenues from events, is American Business Media, an association representing business-to-business publishers.

The MPA has been in talks with the Interactive Advertising Bureau about developing a similar reporting scheme for the online properties of consumer magazine publishers, but it is unclear if and when that might come to fruition. One of the problems with that project is trying to establish an even-handed and accepted basis for estimating the advertising revenues of online publishers versus the PIB, which utilizes--for better or worse--published magazine rate cards and advertising page counts as a uniform standard across publications.

It's unclear whether other industry groups have plans for estimating and reporting the advertising revenue stream derived from online versions of TV, radio and newspapers, but those sources are expected to grow at far faster rates than those of their traditional media inventory.

The timing of the PIB's move is interesting, because it coincides with a relatively flat period for print advertising growth--something some observers might see as a move to squelch potential downward trends.

"I'm disheartened to hear that it might be perceived as a lack of transparency, because that's not what it's about," said Ellen Oppenheim, chief marketing officer of the MPA. "We're hoping to provide more information and a broader perspective than one month can provide."

An especially vexing issue for the MPA's members was that people might draw significant trends from the monthly statistics that were mere anomalies in publishers' or category results.

"One of the things that we've noticed is if you index something off a small base versus a big base things become magnified," she explained. "We were finding that people were looking at month-to-month trends as meaningful, and we felt they needed a larger context. We don't want it to be less transparent. We want it to be a stronger perspective."

Joe Mandese is Editor of MediaPost.

No comments: