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Conde Nast ‘Opens Its Kimono,’ Promises to Share Tablet Reader Data With Advertisers

Rivals are expected to follow Conde Nast’s decision to share tablet reader data with advertisers

Rival publishers are expected to follow Conde Nast decision to "open its kimono" and share data about its tablet readers with advertisers.

Conde Nast's move, announced Thursday, is considered a major step toward establishing the digital business model for magazines.

“Right now what we have is one organization that is opening the kimono and sharing the data that is provided to them with the industry,” Robin Steinberg, an exec VP at ad buyer MediaVest, told TheWrap. "[The other publishers] will follow suit quickly because nobody wants Conde Nast to be the only provider.”

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Conde Nast will release data about reader behavior, including the amount of time spent on a certain issue of a magazine or on a certain ad within it. This will allow editors to gauge the popularity of certain stories and better target their readership — the way they can already do with online content.

And advertisers can find out how much time is being spent on their ads and how much engagement there is with them.

“There has been no data, no way to track or report any of the performance measures that are associated with what [ads] we bought,” Steinberg told TheWrap. “That has been highly frustrating.”

This data could help the magazines turn their tablet editions into a viable platform.

Also read: Hearst Hires Former Conde Nast COO, Promotes Digital Exec

The tablet industry is booming, proven once again by the hoopla surrounding the release of the newest iPad on Friday. Publishers have invested heavily in tablet editions and the platform in a bid to boost their digital audience and shore up print declines.

David Carey, the president of Hearst magazines, announced just last week that the company had surpassed 500,000 digital subscribers. However, the digital subscriber rate for major publishers still pales in comparison to print.

Publishers have been grappling with a Catch-22 here: They all have tablet readership data, but it remains inconsistent and requires cooperation from the likes of Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. That is one reason Conde Nast made the move well after its previously established deadline — October of 2011.

And this lack of data has made advertisers more reticent to advertise on the platform. In some cases, as with Time Inc., advertisers who buy a print advertisement pay nothing extra for a tablet ad.

“After a while, people expect to have metrics like any other medium and unless you have metrics, you won't get full advertiser adoption,” Lou Cona, Chief Marketing Officer at Conde Nast, told TheWrap.

“We’ve been taking heat with advertisers asking 'Where are metrics? Where are metrics?'”

That should start to change as the data starts flowing.

“As audiences continue to grow and as metrics demonstrate the impact these ads are having, all this moves us in a direction where more and more dollars will come to the platform,” Pam Horan, president of the Online Publishers’ Association, told TheWrap.

For an industry that saw advertising revenue plummet during the economic recession, that is good news. Print advertising has recovered somewhat, but managing the digital transition is as important to magazines as it is to their struggling newspaper counterparts.

“We are in the beginning phase of this very long journey that we will be on for a very long time,” Steinberg said. “This information and the type of information that we’re seeking will evolve as more information becomes available.”