As magazines evolve, so should the metrics used to gauge their success
A view from Kerin O'Connor

As magazines evolve, so should the metrics used to gauge their success

Print publishing is easy to understand. A clever editor wishes to communicate an insight. They put words and pictures on pieces of paper, and find people to read this content. Once you get enough readers, then hopefully advertisers wish to engage with this content. The Week has been rather good at this.

From 1995 to 2011, we largely ignored web publishing. Why should we give away content to strangers for free online when we continued to charge our friends to read us in print?

The iPad’s arrival changed everything, and we saw an opportunity to transfer our print relationship on to a new platform. We created a digital edition based on our customers’ needs: easy to use and available across multiple platforms. You could get a hit of gossip first thing in the morning on your iPhone, study the property section at lunch on a laptop and finish up with some international articles on an iPad at home.

We collect a huge amount of data about how our 20,000 paying subscribers read. There were 786,666 issues downloaded in the first half of 2013 and an average issue is opened more than half-a-million times. In June, our users spent a total of 31 years and two months reading. We don’t know everything that happens in the app (yet), but it’s the closest thing to having a printed magazine X-rayed in real time.

The Week's digital edition is the closest thing to having a printed magazine X-rayed in real time

Print metrics are hard to apply to these readers, but established digital metrics are equally at sea. There’s no "bounce rate" for a digital magazine, because the device downloads the entire issue. Impressions are hard to quantify, because we don’t actively serve ads – they’re treated like content, downloaded with the issue and presented like any other page. There’s no such thing as "above the fold", because all our ads are full-screen.

With such radical change in digital publishing, we need fresh media metrics to help understand this new platform – and they should be developed between clients and media owners. A top-down approach or reliance on the old ways will simply limit development. For digital publishing to flourish, transparency, learning and patience are required. We think the best policy is to work with our clients to give back as much information as we can on engagement and interactivity.

Digital editions offer print’s intensity of focus with digital’s creative capability and convenience. It’s a fabulous opportunity that the industry should embrace.

Kerin O’Connor is the chief executive of The Week