Expansion continues at PMB

PMB Print Measurement Bureau, founded 20 years ago to provide independent research into the reading habits and lifestyles of magazine readers, is planning to expand into daily newspaper measurement next year with the inclusion of Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and...

PMB Print Measurement Bureau, founded 20 years ago to provide independent research into the reading habits and lifestyles of magazine readers, is planning to expand into daily newspaper measurement next year with the inclusion of Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

The PMB board recently voted to include the Globe in its annual survey of Canadian consumers, ‘subject to technical considerations.’

At the same time, pmb is hoping to add a marketing director to its full-time staff.


The job will involve, among other things, getting pmb’s membership to understand the depth and potential applications of pmb’s database.

While the two new developments are not directly related, they are indicative of the fairly constant stream of refinements pmb has instituted since 1972 when it was established as a non-profit organization involving magazine publishers, ad agencies and advertisers.

‘The information business has grown a lot over the past few years,’ says Bruce Claassen, president and chief executive officer of Genesis Media in Toronto and pmb chairman for the past three years.

‘The competition for information dollars and information sources has expanded greatly since pmb was established,’ Claassen says.

‘During that time, the pmb concept hasn’t changed, but its execution certainly has, in a way that has allowed pmb to maintain its competitive position,’ he says.

‘I think it’s fair to say that pmb is still considered the bible, not just for magazines, but as a first step that’s taken when you’re looking for general information about product usage or lifestyle.

‘You may decide from there to go to primary research. If you’re looking at a particular consumer group, or if you’re searching for clues about what a group of consumers like or what they do, pmb is the perfect first step. And I think that’s an admirable position [for a research tool] to have.’

Claassen credits the forward thinking of Canadian magazine publishers for getting pmb started in the right direction, and for the co-operative attitude of its tri-partite constituency for the way it has developed.

‘The magazine industry was the first medium to really look into target markets,’ Claassen says. ‘Publishers recognized early on that straight demographics of their audiences didn’t tell the whole story. They knew they needed some product information as well.’

So the pmb mandate, from its inception, was to go beyond magazine readership and collect information about how these same readers behaved, what they thought and how and where they shopped.

‘Magazine sellers in this country are more sophisticated in terms of going beyond demographics, and pmb has given them the right tool to work with,’ Claassen says.

It has also been advantageous that agencies and advertisers have had a say in the evolution of pmb.

Says Claassen: ‘Because it represents the interests of all three legs of the industry, pmb has developed into a research tool that suits all their interests. Basically, it has grown into a service that helps in making smarter, better informed media and advertising descisions.’

Claassen says pmb, as well as other information and research sources, is facing a challenging time. The cost of information is increasing, but so is the demand for it.

‘Advertisers are insisting that advertising campaigns be as focussed and as productive as they can be, and information is the tool you need to satisfy that demand,’ he says. ‘Yet, as information sources expand, they also become more expensive.

‘So the challenge is to provide the highest quality of data at a cost that is acceptable to your members.’

Expanded sample

Recently, pmb expanded its biannual sample size from 15,000 to 20,000 Canadians 12+. The 20,000 sample is now in field research and will be fully reflected in PMB ’94.

The research bureau is also planning to launch a special study on the business and affluent market.

Claassen says adding new ‘added value’ products and services to pmb, expanding its membership, looking for ways in which pmb can be more responsive to members’ needs, and promoting the use of existing services to current members will be among the tasks of the new marketing director, who could be in place as early as this January.

He describes the ideal candidate as someone who is ‘capable with numbers, but is focussed on marketing.

‘There is a need to have the full potential of pmb exposed even to our own members,’ Claassen says.

‘My impression is that outside of agency media departments, it is not being used to its fullest,’ he says. ‘And I include agency account and creative departments.

‘I can think of many examples [apart from magazine readership analysis] of how to use pmb, from helping to find promotional partners, or identifying event or sponsorship opportunities. The database can be an account planning tool.’

Or, Claassen says, it can help in developing a framework for an entire marketing plan.

In one instance, years ago, Claassen used pmb to do a full-scale marketing analysis of a dairy product.

He was able to quickly piece together a profile of the category, the target group, the group’s frame of mind, its interests, its tendency to stay at home rather than go out for entertainment – all of which helped point the marketing program in a direction that had not been previously considered.

‘It was by no means a definitive study, but it certainly helped in focussing our questions,’ Claassen says.

He says the ‘open-mindedness’ of its members and the fact that it remained a ‘bureau’ that has continued to contract out its field work ‘has given us maximum flexibility over the years.

‘I think we’ve also never lost sight of the goal of providing the highest quality of information,’ Claassen says.

‘We’ve moved ahead in measured steps and responsive steps,’ he says. ‘Even the ones that failed, like our experiment with recent reading, were conducted in the spirit of responsiveness – in that case, it was being responsive to a desire to be consistent with ways in which other media are measured.

‘Given the economies of scale we work with [in Canada], we should be proud that we’ve been able to produce a product that is truly world class and has even gone beyond many of its counterparts in the world.

‘It is a credit to the vision and the ingenuity of the people who conceived of it 20 years ago and who have been there throughout the past two decades to make it better.

‘It really says a lot about the ability of the three partners in the industry to co-operate, Claassen says.

‘People complain a lot about the fact that committees can’t get things done,’ he says. ‘That’s not the case with PMB.’