ABC intends to simplify circ audits

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The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) board has given its initial approval to a set of rule changes for circulation audits of US newspapers.

The rule changes, intended to simplify existing ABC rules, reduce audit costs and create more flexibility for publishers, should be formally approved at the board meeting in July. The first of these modifications will go into effect on April 1, 2009.

“I would say there were three objectives for these changes: to make ABC more useful for advertisers, to make the rules simpler and easier to understand, more intuitive and more consistent, and, in doing so, to lead to more efficient and therefore less costly audits,” said Vincent Casanova, VP of circulation for Tribune Publishing Co. and a member of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA)/ABC Liaison Committee.

Reporting requirements for newspapers will undergo a change. Newspapers with an average paid circulation of less than 50,000 will not be required to have annual audits or report averages for each day of the week. The previous threshold was 25,000. In another change, newspapers will be considered “paid” no matter the price for which they are sold — a standard for ABC's periodical division.

Two rule changes affect subscriptions. In April 2009, newspapers will be able to convert current home subscribers to a greater frequency, so long as they provide an opt-out and the new frequency is delivered for at least 12 weeks. ABC will also start phasing out intermittent subscriptions from average paid circulation. Only 50 intermittent days may be claimed in 2009; the number will drop to 25 in 2010, and all intermittent subscriptions must be reported as “verified” in 2011.

The board also approved initial-posting guidelines for its Rapid Report online tool. Publishers of weekly magazines are now asked to post initial post-issue projections within three weeks of the on-sale date. Monthly magazines are asked to post within 7 weeks.

Other changes, set to take effect in October 2010, include a revision of the definition of “paid circulation” and adoption of a paid/verified reporting model where copies purchased by sponsors and then distributed will be reported as “verified.” “Business/Traveler” will be added as a new paid-circulation category to classify copies distributed at hotels and individuals subscriptions paid for by businesses.

“Clearly, there's a goal to make audience measurement, encompassing the total audience across print and online platforms, a more important component in ad buying decisions,” Casanova added. “I think a lot of these changes advance that goal.”

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