PIB revenues, R.I.P.

Last week, a MediaPost article analyzed what looks like apparently deep discounts that magazines gave advertisers in 2009. The data used was taken from the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB).

Industry observer Bob Sacks picked up the story this past weekend and made a broad appeal for greater transparency in the data used by the magazine publishing industry. Sacks expressed several concerns with respect to the relevance and value of the PIB data.

Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), the industry association, wasted little time in issuing a defense of PIB data. Unfortunately, the defense didn’t address Sacks’ core complaint: the revenue data is meaningless.

Bob Sacks is right. When off-ratecard discounts started becoming commonplace twenty years ago, determining revenues based on the one-time open rate stopped being relevant.

Although the MPA says that PIB data is useful for benchmarking, in fact it is useful only if you know the discount to apply to the one-time rate. In aggregate, MPA knows the average discount rate (but isn’t saying it publicly). In specific, there is no basis for comparison, as discount structures vary by category, publisher and even magazine.

At a time when the MPA is throwing its weight behind a campaign to sell “the power of print”, the association would be well-served to gather data that informs the industry, not just information that best fits a storyline.

Full disclosure: Magellan Media was an MPA member from 2007 through 2009. We did not renew this year.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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