OCTOBER 20, 2014

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Is ‘Time Spent with Content’ the Best Indicator of User Engagement?

The media industry is abuzz these days with debate about the best metric for quantifying user engagement with content, and many argue it is time to shift away from clicks to more time-based metrics. A new study from Yahoo Labs focuses on the amount of time that users spend on content items, also known as ‘dwell time’. Analyzing data on the content consumption of Yahoo users, the study finds that dwell time is highly dependent on a variety of external factors. Users spend less time with content items when they are on a mobile device, and more time on articles compared to slideshows. Topics like politics and science tend to keep people engaged for longer than food and entertainment. The length of the article also plays a role – users spend more time on longer articles of up to 1,000 words, but beyond this limit the effect subsides. The Yahoo researchers controlled for these external factors and came up with a normalized figure that represents each content item’s average dwell time. When ingesting this data into the Yahoo content recommendation engine, Yahoo was able to get readers to look at more content. The researchers propose that their findings indicate that dwell time can serve as implicit feedback from users regarding their engagement and satisfaction with the content.

So what?

The Yahoo study supports the view that time spent is a strong indicator of user engagement with content - a view shared by many at Condé Nast. By gaining more insight into the dynamics of this metric, publishers can better understand what content is most engaging. Now that some publishers like Financial Times and The Economist are arguing for time-based advertising models, these metrics have other potential implications for our business.

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Ad Frequency is Good for Brands

Last week's CNtelligence newsletter covered the 2014 MPA Factbook's notable statistics on magazine audiences, but the Factbook also contains a trove of information about print ad effectiveness. The MPA's analysis of Insight Express research found that repeated ad exposures increased the promoted brand’s awareness, favorability and purchase intent among the magazine audience. The research found that respondents with five or more exposures to an ad campaign rated brands higher on all measured key performance indicators than those only exposed to the ads 1-2 times or 3-4 times.

Insight Express' findings mirror the results of an earlier analysis conducted by GfK and Meredith and covered by CNtelligence in 2013. That study found that ad recall scores for respondents exposed to the same ads in 4-6 issues of a magazine had higher recall of the brand than those exposed in 1-3 issues. Brand familiarity was also found to be higher among readers exposed to the ad in several issues across multiple titles.


So what?

Research demonstrates that repeated ad exposure in print publications increases favorability and awareness for brands. Furthermore, the research shows that repeated ad exposure does not lead to any kind of ad fatigue. Given both these findings, publishers have a solid case for encouraging advertisers to repeat campaign buys over multiple issues to maximize effectiveness.

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GfK Starch: Retail Ads in Magazines Continue to Stand Out

GfK MRI Starch conducted an analysis of the nearly 7,000 ads run by 1,300 retailers in print magazines in 2013. The research provider found that the average retail ad was recalled (or noted) by 53% of readers in 2013; that score was just above the 52% average for all ads. Those recalling retail ads were also more likely to take further action after seeing those ads than those who recalled ads in other categories; those actions included visiting a website or looking for more info. The same pattern was observed for tablet editions as retail ads outperformed the average recall score for all ads. Retail ad recall scores were fairly consistent throughout the year ranging from a low of 51% (July & September of last year) to a high of 54% (April). This suggests that shopping is a year-round behavior and print readers are regularly looking for inspiration and information. GfK also observed that retail advertisers are more often using multi-product ads in magazines. In 2013, 66% of retailers' ads promoted multiple products, up from 55% during the year before. Macy's is one of the big retail advertisers moving toward a multi-product approach as nearly three-quarters of Macy's 238 ads run last year featured multiple products. 

So what?

This research is a nice reminder that magazines continue to be an effective way for retailers to advertise. The majority of magazine readers can recall retailers' ads and that recall level remains consistent throughout the year. Furthermore, as advertisers shift toward more multi-product ads, a greater opportunity might exist for publishers to sell more spreads. Advertisers are trying harder to promote a range of products rather than just one, and that often requires more real estate within a magazine.

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The Shopping Preferences of Customers Who Prefer Quality over Price

People who pay more for good quality are one of the most desired consumer segments for luxury and lifestyle retail brands. Marketing agency iProspect surveyed customers with a household income above $75K and a taste for quality to understand their shopping preferences. The survey found that while price still matters to these consumers and they shop around to make sure they get the best deals, two in three say they are willing to spend money to save time. With convenience playing an important role in their shopping preferences, it is no wonder that almost all of these consumers are using digital as they shop: 93% look up information about products, 80% read customer reviews, and 76% research products online before making a purchase decision. Mobile devices are not used as widely, but 52% use them to look up product information, 38% use them to locate stores, and 36% compare prices while in the store. However, despite the widespread use of digital, stores are often still the preferred method to shop. 67% enjoy browsing products in store, and 51% prefer to talk to salespeople face-to-face rather than online. Millennials (21-34 years old) are the biggest fans of in-store browsing, and Boomers (50-74 years old) are most likely to want face-to-face interactions.

So what?

Magazines have long been an efficient way for retailers to reach affluent consumers, but a growing number of studies reveal that these consumers are also heavy users of digital media. Advertising campaigns that combine print and digital could be the most effective in targeting them wherever they are, and at various stages of their consumer journey.

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Quick Takes
Android Users Use Different Apps Throughout the Day; Media & Video Most Often Used at Night

Source: Yahoo
PriceWaterhouseCoopers Forecasts U.S. E-Book Sales to Surpass Print in 2018

Source: PriceWaterhouseCoopers
Teens Spend 21% of their Money on Clothing

Source: PiperJaffray, MarketingCharts.com
Half of College Graduates from High-Income Families Borrow for College

The Pew Research Center defines high income as having parental incomes in excess of $125,700.


Source: Pew Research Center
Condé Nast
Feedback, questions, ideas for future issues? Please contact:

Phil Paparella
Condé Nast Research & Insights | Associate Director
1166 6th Avenue, 14th fl. | NY, NY 10036 | office 212.790.6044 | philip_paparella@condenast.com

Tamar Rimmon | Senior Manager, Digital Analytics
Robyn Hightower | Manager, Research & Insights