BPA Tightens Sponsored Subs Rules

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Media auditor BPA Worldwide's board of directors said last week that it voted for more transparency in sponsored subscriptions -- those that are paid for by a third party rather than by the consumer.

The changes include requiring publishers to define the audiences for sponsored programs and to have those demographics audited as well as a prohibition of monetary remuneration -- known as "check swaps" -- to the sponsor.

In another rule change, BPA, Shelton, CT, insists on breaking out total sponsored copies on the front page of the circulation report. This adds to the number of categories from paid subscription and paid single copies to include paid sponsors as well.

Also, subscription agents cannot be sponsors; sponsored subscriptions are being excluded from average price calculation; and breaking out public-place sponsored circulation -- waiting rooms, for instance -- is mandatory inside the report.

The rules take effect with BPA's statement for the first half of 2006.

The BPA voted for these changes and other disclosures because its board and committee members -- including publishers, advertisers and agency representatives -- thought that media buyers benefit from more in-depth information about the recipients of specific sponsored programs.

"Independently verified information of this nature should help buyers make the most effective media choices for their clients," said Karlene Lukovitz, vice president of communications at BPA. "That's why, even though BPA's sponsored reporting rules were already the industry's most stringent, BPA is breaking new industry ground with these additional points of transparency.

"Showing total sponsored subscriptions on the front page of our report is another example, as are the added breakouts of public place and other subcategories of sponsored subscriptions and forbidding remuneration from the publisher to the sponsor."

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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