ABC revamping rules for US newspapers and magazines

Canadian pubs will likely end up adopting all or some of the changes - whose goal is to streamline circulation standards and audits and provide marketers with more useful information.

After a two-year planning process by a joint industry task force representing nearly two dozen leading newspaper and ad agencies, the Illinois-HQ’d Audit Bureau of Circulations has agreed to what it terms ‘sweeping strategic recommendations for US newspapers that aim to provide marketers with more useful information, streamline ABC rules and audits, and modify key circulation standards.’

The changes follow the successful launch last week of Audience-FAX – a new US initiative that provides for broader reporting of newspaper distribution, print readership and online audience measurements.

ABC’s board has agreed to implement the changes over the next three years in the US, and it will consider adopting similar strategic changes for the Canadian newspaper market following further input from its Canadian members.

For the US market ABC has agreed to:

• Revise the definition of paid circulation to be more straightforward and intuitive, represent payment by individual readers or specialized channels, and continue to be reported separately on ABC Publisher’s Statements and Audit Reports;

• Adopt a paid/verified reporting model where ‘other paid circulation’ (e.g., copies purchased by sponsors or distributed to schools and newspaper employees) will be reported as ‘verified’ circulation;

• Implement a flexible pricing model where newspapers will be considered ‘paid’ regardless of the price for which a copy is sold. This will bring ABC’s US newspaper division in line with current practices in its periodical divisions, as well as with price qualification standards in the Canadian newspaper market;

• Reclassify copies distributed at hotels and subscriptions purchased by businesses for a group of employees to a new paid-circulation category;

• Allow newspapers more flexibility to convert current home subscribers to a greater frequency; and

• Revise ABC Publisher’s Statements and Audit Reports to provide a summary of the total average circulation (paid and verified) and the distribution by channel, such as newsstand sales and total home-delivery copies.

As well, the ABC board agreed to increase the number of magazine copies that can be distributed to hotels and airlines under its ‘verified circulation’ rule. Effective immediately, consumer magazines published monthly or less frequently may provide a maximum of four copies per room to each hotel location. The previous limit was two. The provision for distribution of weekly magazines remains one copy per room.

ABC also agreed to create a new section of the verified rule to govern distribution of consumer magazines to airlines. Effective immediately, publishers may distribute up to two copies per flight, based on a monthly average of flights. The magazines may be distributed on board aircraft or at airport clubs, at the discretion of each airline. As with hotels, airlines must select the specific titles they want to receive.

Additionally, ABC approved the development of a new circulation-forecasting tool to assist newspaper advertisers in the planning process. Via ABC’s website, newspapers will be able to provide distribution forecasts to help their freestanding-insert advertisers better gauge printing and production requirements. This will also eliminate the need for newspapers to contact each advertiser with this repetitive information each month. Several newspapers and advertisers have successfully tested the new tool, which is expected to be available in early 2008.