Audiences, not platforms

As Kate Sirkin of Starcom Mediavest in Chicago said, “we look at a consumer perspective, not a platform perspective. Surveys on individual media need to be linked into an all-embracing multimedia system.” 

The PDRF conference attracted 160 research, marketing and strategy professionals from 24 countries, working in magazine or newspaper publishers, advertising agencies or research agencies. All were involved with developing the research and intellectual evidence supporting the case for advertising in the print and digital platforms of publisher brands.

The wide competitive set for digital advertising

As Kate Sirkin among others stressed, it is not only that planners are chasing audiences rather than platforms, but also that when agencies consider where to place their digital advertising money, the competitive set is much wider than the digital platforms of the traditional print-based brands. Lynne Robinson of the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) made the same point: “Media buyers don’t want to consider just print plus the print brands’ digital properties, but print and everything digital”. Robinson added “All media plans these days have many platforms on them, often ten or more; print is just one of them”. 

Publishers therefore need to show how print fits in with the other media; why advertisers should select publishers’ digital properties alongside other digital options; and what publishers’ digital uniquely adds. 

Several of the conference papers demonstrated that publishers’ digital properties do indeed add something special: accurately targeting quality audiences; the communication synergy from seeing messages in different media, among the duplicated audiences who read a brand’s content both in print and digitally; the trust invested by consumers in their chosen publisher brands, which transfers onto the digital products; and so on. 

A paper from Norway by Ingvar Sandvik and Peter Callius of TNS showed the value of segmenting target audiences into categories of digital users, reaching the conclusion that there are significant segments of light digital users who are most effectively reached through print.

Mobiles and social media

“Smartphones are an extension of the body for young people” declared Berit Puggaard of TNS Gallup, Denmark. The rapid advance of mobiles, and the prominence of social media, were issues that were well discussed in the conference hall and in the informal discussions during breaks. 

Nikhil Nawathe from Facebook USA stressed that each Facebook post is rich in information – who posted, what they were doing or saying, attitudes and actions. Analysis of topic data was excellent as a source for ideas and creativity for publishers. It gives clues for publishers to expand their audiences – though not for measuring ad effectiveness.

Chris Reynolds of Conde Nast USA talked about social media as a key tool in the discovery of magazine content – both online and in print. Print in turn is increasingly being used to direct audiences to social media and websites for further magazine content – often by running deliberately provocative articles. This is particularly effective within distinct communities, such as fashion, food or sport.

Mickey Galin of GfK MRI, USA, described a study conducted on behalf of Conde Nast among ‘followers’ of twelve lifestyle magazines. It showed how publishers can enter partnerships with advertisers, start an online conversation, and keep it going, in ways which will benefit advertisers (brand discoverability; relevant messages) and publishers (better understanding of audiences). The sense was that we are very much at the beginning of monetising social media, and that major opportunities lie out there.  

Measuring the total footprint

Another theme of the conference was the growing trend for national readership surveys to become print-and-digital surveys: still providing quality data on print audiences but also measuring publishers’ online audiences and digital edition readers, and the duplication between them – and thus the total brand reach.

Brazil provides a recent example. Flavio Ferrari of Ipsos described how the long-established EGM readership survey has integrated with IVC circulation data and comScore digital audience data to create a new multimedia database, through which planners can assess consumers’ “attention moments” across platforms. Elie Aoun of Ipsos described how in the United Arab Emirates a single-source super-panel has been created to measure audiences to print, television, radio and internet. In what is probably a unique step, panel members have been sent a wifi router to be self-installed in order to record internet usage. 

For the UK, Katherine Page of NRS Ltd outlined how the 60-year-old continuous National Readership Survey is about to be replaced by a new joint industry survey, to be called AMP (Audience Measurement for Publishers), which will merge new print readership measures with a single-source passive-measurement panel and the comScore digital audience data, to measure the total footprint of publisher brands. (There are more details of this in my article in last month’s Insight newsletter.)

Further examples of developments in multi-platform measurement were given by speakers from Australia, The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and elsewhere.

The collegiate spirit of the PDRF

Other topics which were prominent at the conference included:

  • how consumers read print magazines; 
  • multiple exposures to print ads in an issue of a magazine;
  • passive measurement of print audiences; 
  • programmatic buying of ad space; and
  • the impact of advertising campaigns in magazine media.

I will return to some of these topics in future articles.

One of the features of the PDRF which struck me strongly was the collegiate spirit of the conference. We were all working within the same field, in a dramatic and exciting era characterised by disruptive revolutionary change. Though we were from many countries around the globe we were facing common problems in the measurement of media audiences, and looking for the best solutions to turn the problems into opportunities. By sharing experiences, we were learning from each other – from some of the best professionals in our field in the world. There was a stimulating sense of innovation and imagination.

All the papers given at the PDRF conference will be published openly for anyone to access, without charge, in due course. They will be available to download from

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