Media Week - A move to monthly figures is the right one for magazines

The National Magazine Company’s decision to release monthly circulation figures should be greeted by the industry as another step in the march toward greater transparency in media.

In trying to make inroads against the leading media – television – as well as its competitors and other media, NatMags is trying to do what TV has done in terms of measurement: give planners and buyers clear data on how each ad delivers its audience against target.

Although initially, at least, the publisher will be releasing monthly breakdowns for Audit Bureau of Circulations data already published (the last three six-month periods), the move is still a huge step forward and will give agencies the opportunity to look at factors that affect circulation.

Now seasonal patterns as well as the impact of various covermounts, issue sizes and cover images can all be understood more clearly. Advertisers will have a better idea of which editions to go into.

For NatMags, this represents some risk as some advertisers may decide to pull out of issues that the data would appear to indicate might be leaner in terms of circulation. But such moves should be balanced by advertisers piling into the stronger issues.

The company’s decision to make monthly figures available will now put pressure on the rest of the industry to follow suit – and other publishers should heed any calls.

It will even raise the stakes for other media battling to increase their share of the ad spend pie.

Certainly, newspaper publishers must improve their transparency. Like magazines, they are trying to prove their effectiveness compared to television and other media, yet they don’t even provide circulation breakdowns of different weekdays – so the agencies and their clients don’t know whether the Monday or, say, the Wednesday paper is really delivering the audience they want.

While agencies have long said that such information would be valuable to them in planning campaigns – and doubtless would eventually be taken up by both sides in negotiating rates – they better be sure they make good use of the NatMags figures.

The publisher has said the move is still a test and that it is waiting to see how well the data is received and how useful it proves to be.

It should indeed be useful and making the most of the opportunity in fact, rewarding NatMags for being more transparent – should encourage other publishers to follow suit. And that would not only benefit advertisers, but publishing as a whole.

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