Measuring Up

Ramping up ease of use, Publisher Benchmarks just got even better

Posted

Major enhancements are coming to Publisher Benchmarks that dramatically reduce the time and effort required to enter data-while providing the comparisons, metrics and performance insights that makes the strategic tool vital to media organizations.

Publisher Benchmarks was launched by Inland and Mather Economics LLC four years ago, offering a web-based financial and operational benchmarking tool for newspaper and media executives at all levels of management. The service allows users to see strengths and challenge areas at a glance, and gauge performance from top-level views to deeper dives into comparables within their organization. The service also allows users to compare themselves against their peers, sorted by company size, region, ownership type, business model and much more.

"We've learned that some users have struggled with compiling the information that is fed into the benchmarks database," said Tom Slaughter, executive director of Inland. "We recognize that is a major challenge and we wanted to do all we could to ease that process, and to encourage participation in the service."

With these changes, Publisher Benchmarks retains its flexible comparability options that media organizations find vital-all accessible 24/7 from a dashboard-but in a way that now offers enormous time-savings on data inputs from the organizations.

"We've been working with the Mather team over the last several months to lessen the challenge of data submission," Slaughter said. "We've found an approach that dramatically reduces that burden."
Mather and Inland learned that by asking for just 45 data points they could populate virtually all of those metrics that users normally view on the site. Going forward, Publisher Benchmarks participants will need to submit just those 45 data items quarterly-instead of the more than 330 data points that have been required in the current submission form.

"We have demonstrated the service to several power users and the feedback from them was encouraging," Slaughter said. "We plan to use the new, shorter, submission form to collect results for the second quarter."

Among the heavy users providing feedback was the Sandusky Newspaper Group, whose eclectic collection of publications includes small dailies and weeklies spread throughout the Midwest, Mountain West and Southeast United States. As Doug Phares, Sandusky's president and COO, likes to point out, no two of its operations are exactly like each other.

Sandusky relies on Publisher Benchmarks to measure performance, especially within the group. Each quarter with new data, the 10 group publishers comb through the data, and once a year get together to look through the results in depth.

Phares says he like the changes to Publisher Benchmarks. "Overall this is tighter and better," he said. "I feel like I can ‘see' everything I need and not get lost in detail."

As part of the enhancements, Inland and Mather are offering former users access to Publisher Benchmarks at no charge to demonstrate the dramatic improvements.

Another change introduced makes it easier to add digital metrics by offering automated processes to collect important digital information.

Improvements to Publisher Benchmarks will continue, Slaughter said.

"We are moving to a different technical platform on which the service will rest," he said. "That new platform will allow us to make further improvements in the service much more quickly, allowing us to better respond to suggestions from our participants."

For more information on participating in this improved Publisher Benchmarks, contact Karla Zander, Inland's manager of research and member services, at kzander@inlandpress.org or (847) 795-0380.