Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Short engagement

Oh, dear. It's not bad enough that web and online and podcasts and whatever else is threatening magazines as we know them (I'm kidding, really), now comes along some research that shows magazine "engagement" may be no great shakes, either.

For years, publishers have been pushing the idea that "engagement" with readers is the key to success for advertisers, that "engagement" is something that is a reliable measurement of what makes advertising work. Therefore the magazines that engage the reader most should theoretically be the ones that attract the most loyal audience and clean up on the ad budget. Well, um, no. At least according to an article in Ad Age magazine.

Starch Communications Research studied 25 magazines and what they found, says Ad Age, "contradicts conventional wisdom and the hopes of print publishers." High-engagement magazines perform no better than ads in magazines whose readers pay a lot less attention.

"When the buzzword of engagement became so big, starting about two years ago, we said, 'Let's really look into this,"' said Philip W. Sawyer, senior VP, Starch Communications Research, which conducted the study -- and which, it should be noted, offers creative-testing services for print ads. "If a magazine wasn't tabbed as a high-engagement publication, it was being discriminated against. Starch has said all along that it's a creative issue. That was our hypothesis."

So Starch studied high-engagement, low-engagement and middling titles, defining engagement by the frequency with which they are read, time spent with each issue and how much of each issue gets finished. When it examined the percentages of readers who remembered ads across the magazines, it found no link between those scores and levels of engagement.

But some called the Starch conclusion way off. "That's like saying there's no definitive evidence that smoking causes cancer," said Stephen Giannetti, VP-group publisher, National Geographic, a title with nearly compulsive readers. "If somebody is engaged in our magazine and spends more time in our magazine, there's no way they're not going to be more engaged in the advertising."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home