Tuesday, May 15, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: "Trust but Verify"?

I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you"
Friedrich Nietzsche (German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture, 1844-1900.)

BoSacks Speaks Out: "Trust but Verify"?
You can draw your own conclusions here, but I say that the claims of 50 engaged readers per public copy is at the heart of some of our circulation problems. In Doctor's waiting rooms people are not relaxed. They are not lounging with carefree time. They are thinking about the Doctor, the problems, the pains that they are there to fix, some times big and some times small.

Distracted from their problems perhaps, . . . totally engaged by a magazine they found on a table . . . ?

Whatever Happened to "Trust but Verify"?
By Kristina Joukhadar
http://www.circman.com/viewmedia.asp? prmMID=3097&prmID=1

"Trust but verify." That was the consensus at the Joint Panel of Buyers and Sellers at the annual Audit Bureau of Circulations conference last November when the category of verified circulation was officially introduced.

Yet some circulators told CM they were holding their breath, waiting for advertisers to request rebates on verified circulation. One of the main topics at a subsequent ABC panel of circulators and agency execs, chaired by media consultant and veteran journalist Karlene Lukovitz, was the value of public place circulation and how it was perceived by advertisers.

On that panel, Rebecca McPheters referred to the research her company had done in conjunction with Time Inc., which documented the fact that public place copies have 30 to 50 readers per copy-and that these are people in waiting rooms who are totally engaged with the magazine.

"Any source has a wide range in quality," McPheters said at that time, "it all depends on how engaged the readers are. Public place represents a multiple of the readers you get with subscriptions or newsstand copies. No source category is [inherently] good or bad-the ultimate value is to reach engaged readers with the demographics you want to reach."

In these previous discussions, many circulators have been concerned that advertisers and their agencies would use the verified circulation category as an excuse to knock down the value of circulation and therefore the advertising price.

Or, as one outspoken circ director said over a year ago, "It just gives advertisers another club to beat us over the head with." Based on the comments in this week's article in Advertising Age ("Marketers to Mags: Give Guarantees or We'll Walk"), this is exactly what's happening.

Robin Steinberg of MediaVest speaks in the article about the use of verified circulation, saying "we believe the proper use [of verified circ] is not taking place, and the current use is to make up for rate base under- delivery from newsstand decline."

But if newsstand sales figures can fluctuate by as much as 20 percent from issue to issue, isn't this a "catch-22"? Does it mean circulation must always be 20 percent higher than rate base in case the newsstand sales dip on a particular issue?

Who will pay for the overage? Will the advertisers pay a premium for the number of copies over rate base? Or would they prefer to wait for a six-month average, as is now the case with the ABC Audit Reports?

The reasoning behind advertiser/agency requests for issue-by-issue guarantees of circ that does not fluctuate, is said to be based on all the competition from online media, where the ad charges are based on page views and click throughs. However, as we have seen over the past few months, the measurement of the online numbers is not at all transparent.

Circulation/audience measurement and reader engagement are complex concepts to master in any medium. We believe circulators and their publishers are doing everything in their power to provide accuracy and transparency for their advertisers.

The necessary tools and metrics are just not there yet. And until they are, it is encumbent on all the parties involved to verify, yes, but verify with trust.

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