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Magazine media’s twin opportunities

Evidence continues to mount that magazine media, in both print and digital forms, are very cost-effective for advertisers, and are often more cost-effective than television and other media, writes Guy Consterdine, FIPP’s insight consultant.

The implication is that magazines should be allocated a higher share of the advertising budget than they usually receive. While there are limits to how far print’s share can be increased, there are no limits to how far publishers’ digital platforms can accommodate additional ad investment.

An informative illustration of this is the AT&T case study published by the Mobile Marketing Association in the USA. AT&T ran a real life advertising campaign for its new Moto X smartphones. The main objective was to establish high awareness of the new product. 93 per cent of the budget was spent on TV, five per cent on desktop online, one per cent on mobile, and one per cent on print magazines.  

In parallel, the target audience’s media exposure and their awareness of the Moto X smartphone was measured, using research firm Marketing Evolution’s single-source consumer panel SMoX (Smart Mobile Cross Marketing effectiveness research). The SMoX analysis is able to calculate the contribution of each medium to the observed campaign effects, and to model an optimum budget split between the media.

Marketing Evolution found that the return on investment (awareness generated per advertising dollar spent) of mobile was twice that of TV, and print magazines’ return on investment was four times that of TV.

The SMoX model was used to calculate an optimal allocation of the budget, in the light of these  cost-efficiency results. The modelling takes account of diminishing returns to the use of an individual medium, which in this case applied heavily to the television expenditure. 

The result was that the optimised allocation placed 72 per cent of the budget in TV (instead of the actual 92 per cent), five per cent to desktop internet (the same as the actual), 16 per cent to mobile (instead of one per cent), and eight per cent to print magazines (instead of one per cent).

That’s a great result for magazines, but I asked why were magazines not given more than mobile, since magazines’ cost-efficiency was twice that of mobile?

There are two reasons. One is the availability of inventory. For a campaign running for a limited time period there are only so many issues of each magazine which are published during that period. Additional titles might be added but there comes a point where the marginal titles are not very cost-efficient against the target audience. The second consideration is that print magazines may have a limitation on the reach they can achieve among the target audience, in some cases.

Thus there are real caps on the extent to which expenditure in print magazines might be increased.

What this underlines is the importance of publishers’ own digital offerings. While print could only have carried eight per cent of the budget in this AT&T case, magazine media publishers would go after some of the budget allocated to mobile, pitching for a share of the optimised 16 per cent rather than a share of the actual one per cent.

Magazine media publishers now have two strings to their bow. As budget-modelling improves it will demonstrate ever more clearly the effectiveness of publishers’ own mobile and other internet properties.

Publishers’ mobile offerings as star performers

While the AT&T study did not specifically identify magazine publishers’ mobile offerings as stars among mobile, there is plenty of evidence about it from elsewhere. One readily accessible source is my report for FIPP Proof of Performance: Making the case for magazine media (second edition), downloadable from

New examples will be presented at FIPP’s Insight Forum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on May 18-19. A whole session will be devoted to papers on the power of publishers’ digital platforms: mobile and desktop websites; in-app tablet ads; native advertising; and the benefits of print and digital combined. For more information visit

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