The Growing Trend in Audience Metrics

Digital technology the key to reporting audience engagement for print brands

For over 100 years, print media owners have sold advertising space based on the profile of their audience. Those publishers who could best present the quality of their audience's demographics, acquisition sources and age were very likely to enjoy a robust bottom line.

Traditionally, media owners were limited in what they could report about their audience. The frequency of a publication, the total copies printed and distributed combined with subscribers' title and market category (in the b-to-b space) was about as deep as publishers could dig.

As the marketplace evolved, so too did the audience platforms that were offered by media brands. User data from websites, e-newsletters, webinars, social media and digital editions added to publishers' ability to present more complete audience metrics. In addition to subscriber demographics derived only from print, media owners could now report on visits, clicks, opens, time spent on a particular platform, frequency of use and shares.

Fast forward to modern day, where thanks to the continued evolution of digital media – and all of the advanced audience tracking technologies that go with it – print media owners are starting to sell based on the traditional strength of total audience profile while also reporting engagement metrics to better satisfy the needs of advertisers.

Take UK-based PORTER Magazine as a recent example. For the six-month period ended December 31, 2015, the consumer magazine profiled its traditional print circulation details, but also reported a broader range of metrics to present a more rounded picture of real audience engagement.

PORTER – an entirely "shoppable" fashion magazine published by THE NET-A-PORTER Group – reported the reach and impact of its innovative digital shopping experience, or "shoppability." PORTER's subscribers are able to shop directly off the pages using the NET-A-PORTER shopping app in real-time. As a result, PORTER for the first time can collect and report on real audience interaction with its print ads and content using scanning technology – an innovation likely to enjoy broader use.

Another key aspect of total audience engagement is publishers' ability to show the timeliness of consumers' interaction with the brand. Recognizing that marketers may want more recent audience usage data than a traditional audit report provides, media owners are looking for new methods of reporting.

For example, in April PMMI Media Group contracted with BPA to audit Zigma, the publisher's client-facing dashboard that provides near real-time audience data to the marketplace. The dashboard data for Packaging World, Automation World and Healthcare Packaging will present media buyers and advertisers with the brands' full reach across all PMMI media channels, including print, web traffic, e-newsletters, social media and events.

According to PMMI, the dashboard data is easily accessible to advertisers and constantly updated. While the technology represents a significant break from traditional audit statements that typically report a brand's print audience data from the previous six months, PMMI still wants third-party verification of its real-time audience database and is working with media auditor BPA Worldwide to assure the data.

News of PMMI's real-time audience dashboard has already put smiles on the faces of media buyers. "We have a dozen clients using PMMI Media Group publications and electronic products," said Rhona Siciliano, Vice President Media Director, Turchette Advertising in Fairfield, NJ. "We are excited to use their near real-time dashboard for day-to-day planning purposes, but equally as excited that we can provide our clients with the level of quality a BPA audit provides."

Media kit? Nope – The latest audit statement from SOHO Create.


As the media marketplace continues to advance, print publishers continue to think outside of the box in terms of reporting audience engagement metrics. In some cases, brands are utilizing digital technology to graphically represent audience metrics. SohoCreate, a London-based magazine and street fair, used a variety of visual graphics to tell the story of its audience reach that looks more like a media kit than audit statement. The publisher used a number of graphic elements, including bar graphs, photographs, pie charts, and even word clouds to present the quality of its audience to buyers.

The bottom line is that media owners now know a great deal more about their audience(s) and have numerous effective ways to communicate the information – with more likely on the way. And that’s good news for their marketer customers.