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Print magazines may still capture the largest share of revenues, but they by no means have a lock on a brand's audience. Working toward meeting the growing cry for an "audience reach" audit, BPA announced today that one member has finished its part of an ongoing alpha test phase of the Brand Reach report, which is designed to capture the full range of customer interaction with a multiplatform brand.
Stamats Business Media was the first to complete the Brand Reach test audit for its Meetings West brand. "The last decade has been a turbulent one for b-to-b media companies, as we have attempted to keep our arms around the myriad product offerings required to adequately service our audience segments," said Stamats president Tim Fixmer in a statement. "This new audit tool will help our advertising customers quickly and thoroughly determine the depth and scope of the media buy within a given brand needed to achieve their mar/com objectives."
Magazines have been branching out onto other media—live and virtual events, digital, mobile, et al—to exploit opportunities and satisfy consumer content preferences. Relational databases subsequently have been exposing how nuanced these interactions are, and publishers are understandably very interested in presenting that broader story to print-skittish marketers.
Up to this point, audit firms generally offer siloed snapshots of audience interaction with media—a print-centric and limited approach that's been met with increasing calls for more reporting flexibility, particularly when an audience is fragmented across a variety of brand platforms. Indeed, BPA president and CEO Glenn Hansen said that the firm's integrated media audit, started in 1998, has not been "wildly successful."
The Brand Reach report breaks out and audits each media platform a brand occupies—showing total audience, unique users within each channel, and customers that interact with more than one platform. No media is spared. Publishers can drill down as far as they want—from magazines to live events to Web sites to Webinars and even whitepaper downloads.
The Meetings West test included metrics for the magazine, two enewsletters and a Webinar.
"With the brand reach audit, we want to document all of the touchpoints," said Hansen. "Some are very low in [audience] volume, but might attract good sponsorship dollars. Normally, you wouldn't come to BPA and pay thousands of dollars to verify that 300 people sat in on a Webinar."
The Brand Becomes the Member
That model, said Hansen, is best facilitated by a brand membership approach, which turns the current audit approach on its head. Rather than requiring each element—magazine, newsletter, Web site—be a member with separate dues and fees, which, said Hansen, has hindered the success of the current Integrated Media Audit plan, the brand becomes the member.
The brand is charged a flat fee to initiate the audit, and once an initial time-frame is eclipsed, an hourly fee structure kicks in. The pricing scheme has yet to be fully worked out, but the structure allows a publisher to add in as many touchpoints as it wants.
A centralized, relational database is a key component to the success of this program. Without one, publishers have to compile and dedupe multiple databases, or hand over all their records to BPA to work through—which makes the hourly fee structure a potentially expensive investment. "Having separate databases will cost more then if a brand has a relational database. It's more cost effective to audit in that environment," said Hansen.
The new audit format helps the publisher tell its full audience story, but it also could inject some much needed cache for BPA. Now, if a marketer is not interested in a print buy, a circulation-based audit is of little use. A multiplatform audience breakdown centralized into one audit puts BPA back into the sales conversation. "It makes the BPA report a relevant tool in the sales conversation," said Hansen. "If the buyer doesn't want to talk about print, I still want to be there."
Hansen says BPA will cycle through 5 to 10 more alpha tests, show the Board the results in December, and then go into a six-month beta period. A fully active audit product will likely be available by July 2010, he said.
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