Wednesday, April 11, 2007

U.S. Publishers Information Bureau cuts back reporting of ad pages and revenue

For 25 years, American magazine publishers have received monthly reports on ad pages and dollars booked in consumer magazines. Now, in what it has spun as an effort to provide "broader context", the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB), a division of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) is cutting back to quarterly reporting, effective the first quarter of 2007.

"[The] move is the latest in a pattern of similar moves by other media trade groups over the past several years that appears to be suppressing, not enhancing the flow of information about the advertising performance of their member media companies," says the story in MediaDaily News.

The PIB data has always been subject to criticism because it is based on data reported voluntarily by magazine publishers and the dollar amounts are calculated based on rate cards, which means that no account is taken of ubiquitous discounting. However, it allowed apples-to-apples tracking of trends on a year-to-date basis.
There is no equivalent Canadian data, something many Canadian publishers lament. (The only source in Canada is Statistics Canada, which for more than a decade provided a detailed and comprehensive "census" every two to three years of magazine revenues and costs; last year it announced it was discontinuing the process in favour of a random sample which will contain much less detailed information.)

The timing of the PIB's move is interesting [the story said] because it coincides with a relatively flat period for print advertising growth--something some observers might see as a move to squelch potential downward trends,

"I'm disheartened to hear that it might be perceived as a lack of transparency, because that's not what it's about," said Ellen Oppenheim, chief marketing officer of the MPA. "We're hoping to provide more information and a broader perspective than one month can provide."

An especially vexing issue for the MPA's members was that people might draw significant trends from the monthly statistics that were mere anomalies in publishers' or category results.

"One of the things that we've noticed is if you index something off a small base versus a big base things become magnified," she explained. "We were finding that people were looking at month-to-month trends as meaningful, and we felt they needed a larger context. We don't want it to be less transparent. We want it to be a stronger perspective."

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