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Magazines are natural partners for other media channels
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The 2004 Media Experience Study in The Netherlands has underlined some of magazines’ strongest attributes compared with other media: readers’ identification with their favourite titles, enjoyment, stimulating information of a practical nature, and advertising that provides new, clear and useful information that is believable.
This survey is an example of a type of research which is becoming increasingly important: examining how consumers use a very wide range of methods of communication, rather than just one or a few.
From an advertiser’s point of view, the growing focus is on how to develop communications across several platforms and channels; and how to evaluate these activities. It is modifying the way that media strategy is being planned. The new perspective has created fresh terms such as ‘channel planning’ and the slightly older ‘media neutral planning’.
The attributes of magazines mean that the medium has a great deal to offer in this new way of thinking, just as it always had in more traditional approaches. But publishers increasingly need to demonstrate how magazines fit into a mix of many types of media, including non-traditional ones such as phone messaging, emailing, contextual online marketing, other uses of the internet, and so on. Every medium has its strengths and its weaknesses. Publishers must show how magazines complement and interlock with other media, like a key piece in a jigsaw.
Hence the importance of the Dutch 2004 Media Experience Study. It is a rare example of a survey which probes a large number of communication channels simultaneously, and does so in terms which can be compared across media. Conducted by research agency Veldkamp/TNS NIPO, it also assessed attitudes towards the advertising in nine media. Magazines were ranked in the first three positions for seven out of ten dimensions. Magazine advertising was ranked first in terms of ‘something new’ and ‘believable’. It was ranked second on ‘useful information’ and ‘happy’. It came third in terms of ‘clear’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘original/unique’.
The internet is strong in terms of ‘clear’, ‘something new’ and ‘felt involved’ but weak in terms of ‘happy’ and ‘did not irritate me’.
The Dutch researchers concluded that marketers and their ad agencies are already convinced that a mix of media is more effective than a single medium. Enhancement and synergy effects are the reason. Multimedia strategies involving a greater number of media channels than before requires new research tools through which the performance of media can be compared.
Another type of development is being pioneered by the UK’s IPA, the body representing advertising agencies. The IPA is piloting a survey called TouchPoints. All members of a panel of respondents carry a palm-top computer – a standard PDA – with them. It contains a questionnaire about their activities and media exposure, every half hour. What has struck me most is the wide range of ‘media’ which are being asked about. The list includes all the traditional media, plus the new electronic ones, and even whether the respondent is talking to someone else during the half-hour. Thus it is measuring ‘communication’ in the broad sense, not simply ‘media’ in the conventional sense. Advertisers and agencies will be able to use the data to plan their whole communications strategy, of which the traditional media are just one part. TouchPoints will also be a means of linking the vertical research currencies (readership surveys, television ratings services, etc) into a central hub.
This type of broad cross-media research must be complemented by deeper studies of how certain combinations of media can work together. For magazines and newspapers, the links with the internet are especially important to analyse. Our decades of past research don’t throw much light on this new medium or how it interacts with print.
A new if modest project illustrates one type of interaction. An American study released in November 2004 by research agencies Ipsos-Insight and Faulkner Focus showed a close relationship building up between print and online advertising. The two media work together as natural companions. For example, it was found that information in print had sometimes led directly to an online search, which in turn sometimes led to purchase. Thus one respondent saw a print ad for a cell-phone plan, then went online to the advertiser’s website for further details, and finally went out to a shop and made a purchase. A symbiotic relationship was found between print and the internet.
We need to know more about the path from print to web, then from web to purchase. And from web to print too.
It is already clear that advertisers should, where relevant, include their online address in their print ads, and that the online advertising should consciously tie in with the print advertising. Information on the website which relates to products featured in print ads should be easy and quick to find on the site, when readers visit.
FIPP is about to play its part in the need for more knowledge by repeating its two-year-old research into how b2b publishers are utilising the web, and how they are making print and web work together.
While the internet has become a strong information utility, it cannot replace the powerful characteristics of magazines.