Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Jul-Aug 2012

Beyond audience measurement

Why the print media needs to develop an effective system to measure the impact of the advertising.

As one of the world’s oldest advertising media, newspapers and magazines are seen to be conservative when it comes to meeting the ever increasing appetite of advertisers for audience measurement. Compare this to the readily available figures for television viewership and we understand why media planners and buyers in Pakistan end up spending more on TV, despite the medium’s highly fragmented viewership.

Thanks to the ease of channel hopping, TV audiences are, relatively speaking, not as loyal or committed as their print media counterparts are. This also explains the mad race for ‘breaking news’ on various TV channels.

Editors of newspapers and magazines are not worried about their ‘ratings’ on a daily basis, unlike their counterparts in the TV world.

In other words print enjoys the advantage of comparatively stable and steady audiences; hence the lack of enthusiasm by print media managers to engage in audience measurement exercises on a more frequent basis. This explanation does not however, obviate the need for a print media audience measurement exercise.

#### Why the print media needs to develop an effective system to measure the impact of the advertising it carries.

To be beneficial to advertisers, print media audience measurement must look at both the quantitative and qualitative aspects. As far as the quantitative aspect is concerned, there are two main methods by which advertisers can assess the efficacy of their campaigns; by looking at how many copies are sold and then read. These two methods are not as simple as they many seem. For example, the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) only mentions the number of copies sold. Yet advertisers need to know how many copies were single copy sales and how many were subscriptions. Even subscription copies may be sold in bulk to offices, hotels, airlines or given away in promotion. Each distribution method has a potentially different value to advertisers because it depicts the presence or not of a loyal and stable readership and hence the probability of being read in-depth.

Another issue within quantitative measurement is the absence of focus on advertising exposure. Newspapers and magazines in Pakistan consist of different sections, with content worth upward of 20 pages on weekdays and over 50 pages on Sundays (in the case of newspapers) or close to 100 pages (in the case of magazines). The likelihood that a reader will see an advertisement on page three or page 11 will vary. The ABC certification only provides an overall readership number for the entire newspaper or magazine without any attempt to dig further. This is in contrast to TV and internet audience measurement systems, which provide detailed data on the impact of a particular advertisement (wherever it is placed). Given that advertisers are seeking maximum returns on their ad spend, detailed audience information is crucial. The fact that print is unable to provide equivalent data on the impact of the advertisements they carry is likely to shift ad spend to other media.

As far as the qualitative aspect of print media measurement is concerned it is positioned more advantageously. In a society with a relatively low literacy rate, the print media guarantees a literate and consequently affluent and influential audience; something which is of crucial importance to advertisers who need to consider not only the demographics but also the psychographics and socio-economic classes (SEC). Furthermore, from the qualitative aspect, it is believed that the very act of reading a newspapers or magazine implies a level of engagement with the content which is not necessarily there when it comes to TV and radio advertising.

As a result of the increasing importance of quantitative audience measurement systems, TV is likely to increase its share of total ad spend. Does this spell doom for print media?

Not necessarily. According to the UK’s Newspaper Marketing Association (NMA), for any meaningful audit of advertising spends, advertisers need to remember that print media offers:

  • High geographic and demographic selectivity

  • Immediacy and short campaign lead times

  • High engagement

  • Flexibility of size and format

  • Space to communicate detailed messages

  • The ability to produce tear-off ads/coupons

  • Space to feature contact details, enabling rapid response

The NMA also identified six strategic roles advertising in print can perform for readers:

  • Offer a call to action and prompt decision making.

  • Provide depth of information

  • Communicate/enhance brand values

  • Encourage audiences to reaffirm brands

  • Create a forward-looking public agenda

  • Remind viewers of current campaigns

    Ali Hasan Naqvi is Senior Assistant General Manager, DAWN.