Summary of July 2011 U.S. Board Actions
July 26, 2011
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (July 26, 2011)—The following are highlights of the actions taken by the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ (ABC) board of directors at its meeting held on July 20-22. (Note: The full update to ABC’s bylaws and rules is regularly made available on ABC’s website within weeks following each board meeting.)
Modification to Nonpaid Direct Request Digital Circulation Finalized
Final Passage – Effective July 25, 2011
Following its initial action at the March meeting, the ABC board finalized a change to Rule D 12.1 Nonpaid Direct Request Circulation specifically affecting digital editions in this circulation category.
The board agreed that a subscriber’s periodic access of a publication’s digital version may qualify as a direct request because it constitutes an expression of want. To qualify a publication’s digital version as direct request, the following access criteria must be met:
- A publication issued on a weekly or less frequent basis must be accessed nine times per Publisher’s Statement period.
- A publication issued on a monthly or less frequent basis must be accessed twice during a Publisher’s Statement period.
- A publication issued on a quarterly or less frequent basis must be accessed once during a Publisher’s Statement period.
- A semi-annual publication must be accessed once per audit period.
Small-Space Advertisements Excluded from Digital Replica Requirements
Unanimous Consent – Effective July 25, 2011
Following requests from publishers and recognition from media buyers, the ABC board agreed to modify the digital edition guidelines with respect to small-space advertising. The updated guidelines state that small-space advertisements displayed in the print edition, including classified ads and those at least one-third of a page or smaller, need not be present in the digital edition for the copy to qualify as a replica.
New Ongoing Category Added to Paragraph 8
Unanimous Consent – Effective July 25, 2011, for December 2012 Statements
The board agreed to modify the duration section of Paragraph 8 Analysis of Total New and Renewal Paid Individual Subscriptions to add a new category for classifying ongoing subscriptions.
Magazine Vision Task Force Considers Expanded Reporting of Digital Publications and Applications, and Timeliness of Data
The consumer magazine vision task force is progressing toward industry consensus for a revamped approach to the way magazines report data to ABC. Aiming for a comprehensive overhaul of many rules and reports, the group’s goal is to ensure ABC’s foundational rules, metrics and reports reflect a growing desire from both publishers and buyers to expand beyond the single print publication to a system that embraces the brand’s complete media footprint.
The group continues to explore amendments to ABC magazine processes, including:
- A dual-reporting structure that supports both Publisher’s Statements and Consolidated Media Reports.
- A new, more contemporary Publisher’s Statement that prominently summarizes print and digital circulation, while maintaining separate key reporting elements for each delivery method.
- Encourage magazines to explore the opportunities available to them via the flexible Consolidated Media Report format including expanded reporting of ancillary print and digital products.
- Revised rules for print and digital bundled sales that accurately reflect the growing use of this consumer marketing program.
- Expansion of data elements for digital editions such as access rates, visits, time spent, etc.
- Commit to provide buyers with more timely data for digital publications and apps.
The group continues to work on recommendations for the ABC board to review in November.
Additional Details About New Metric for March 2012 Statements
First Passage – Effective with March 2012 Publisher’s Statements
At its November 2010 meeting, the ABC board finalized the rules surrounding hybrid and bundled subscriptions for U.S. newspapers. One element of the new rules was the requirement that U.S. newspapers report a new metric to reflect the total number of unique subscribers across print and digital platforms.
At this meeting, the ABC board gave initial approval to a “total consumer accounts” metric that will represent a newspaper’s unique customer accounts. The new figure will be inclusive of all consumer accounts where print and digital products are billed together, even those where incremental pricing does not exist.
Recognizing that subscriber information from some digital outlets is limited and may make it difficult to arrive at a true net figure, the board also agreed to include disclaimers when platforms cannot be unduplicated.
The total consumer accounts calculation will be based on a representative weekday and Sunday selected by the publisher. The information will be included in U.S. newspaper Publisher’s Statements, Audit Reports and FAS-FAX.
Revised Digital Edition Rules Elaborate on Qualifications for Primary and Secondary Platforms
Unanimous Consent – Effective Oct. 1, 2011
Rule C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions explains that when a digital edition is bundled with a print subscription or other digital subscriptions but without any tiered pricing packages, only the print or the first digital edition may qualify as paid. Any additional digital copies will only qualify if the subscriber takes action to register, activate and access the copy.
The rule continues to state that the subscriber must access the first digital platform at least one time per 30 days, the second digital platform at least weekly, and the third and any subsequent digital platforms at least daily.
At this meeting, the board reiterated that the print newspaper will qualify as the primary platform. If there is not a print product, the publisher may self-select the digital platform that will qualify as paid circulation without access requirements and assign qualification criteria for subsequent digital copies—first (monthly), second (weekly), third (single copy).
The board also agreed that the qualification criteria outlined above may differ from subscriber to subscriber and from month to month.
Editions Rules Finalized
Final Passage – Effective July 25, 2011
Following its initial approval in March, the board finalized a change to rules C 2.4 Separate Editions and C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions that require the explanatory paragraph of ABC statements to provide information on the advertising content of claimed digital circulation.
Additionally, the board finalized rule language to clarify that paid circulation subscription offers need to associate the subscription price with a definitive term. A digital subscription offer without a definitive term will qualify as paid circulation for 30 days. For periods beyond 30 days, remaining service can be reported as verified circulation if the digital edition is initially registered, activated and opened, and then accessed at least once every 30 days.
Opt-Out, Opt-In Requirements Also Approved
Final Passage – Effective July 25, 2011
Rule C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution establishes qualification standards to differentiate between requested and targeted home delivery. For requested home delivery, subscribers must request the publication annually.
To limit annual administrative costs, the ABC board agreed to amend Rule C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution to require an opt-in notice only at the start of the subscription to qualify distribution as “requested.” Packaging on each delivered issue must contain clear and conspicuous information for the subscriber to opt-out. Clear, simple instructions to opt-out of the subscription must be delivered to the subscriber in each subsequent year using mail, email or a phone call. ABC reports will also detail the age of the opt-in request.
New Task Force to Evaluate the Feasibility of Adopting CMR as ABC’s Core Report Format
Acknowledging the popularity of ABC’s Consolidated Media Report and the wide-ranging benefits it provides both newspapers and buyers, the board directed that a joint buyer/seller task force be formed to develop recommendations for adopting the CMR as the organization’s core report format. The group’s recommendation will also include suggestions for enriching ABC’s online database with CMR data and suggestions for how often data elements should be reported.
The board expects preliminary recommendations at its November meeting.
ABC began offering the CMR to newspapers in 2009. Since then, the organization has developed CMRs for more than 25 newspapers. The completely customizable reports have featured paid circulation, free distribution, social media metrics, website and mobile data, and even television broadcast data.
Two New Directors Elected to North American Board
The ABC board welcomed two new directors at its July meeting:
- Stacy Boone, media manager, Target Corporation, representing U.S. advertisers.
- Sara Hill, president, M2 Universal, representing Canadian advertising agencies.
New Treasurer Elected to the ABC Board
Following the retirement of current ABC treasurer Brian Segal, Rogers Publishing, the board elected Scott Heekin-Canedy of The New York Times to serve as its new treasurer.
Audit Rates Remain Unchanged for Fifth Year
The board of directors voted to maintain ABC’s current audit rates and other fees for the next year. ABC has not increased its rates or fees since January 2007.