ABC Board Focuses on Digital Reporting

Posted on March 20, 2012

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by: Press Release | Audit Bureau of Circulations

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (March 20, 2012)—The ABC board of directors has endorsed a new report format that significantly expands how consumer magazines will report metrics for digital publications. It also reviewed plans for a broad newspaper vision built upon cross-media reporting; it approved a Consolidated Media Report (CMR) for business publications; and it outlined a vision of more frequent reporting of data via an enhanced integrated database.

Key Consumer Magazine Actions

The board endorsed several recommendations from a U.S. and Canadian magazine publisher/advertiser task force, which spent more than a year examining the industry’s evolving needs for media reporting and verification. The board agreed to a new Publisher’s Statement prototype that provides media buyers with greater detail on print and digital magazine subscriptions and single-copy sales. It also requires publishers to begin reporting key activity metrics for digital magazines published via tablet apps and web browsers. This includes the number of unique browsers or devices, total visits, and average visit duration.

Acting on the recommendation of the task force, the board also agreed that only one platform in a bundled subscription package and only replica digital editions may count toward total average circulation. To report additional brand extensions, the board encouraged publishers to use ABC’s Consolidated Media Report.

Digital editions are reported throughout the new statement, but two sections will focus solely on digital. If digital editions are more than 2 percent of total circulation and average at least 3,000 copies, publishers must report net digital circulation by platform type (web, apps, and multiplatform offers). Gross numbers of bundled digital magazines by issue and platform are also required.

The board is expected to give these new magazine rules formal approval at its July meeting, with the new report format anticipated to be effective July 1, 2013.

“Magazines and their cross-platform brand extensions continue to offer valuable opportunities,” said Robin Steinberg, an ABC board member and executive vice president, director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest. “We are optimistic about the diverse, new digital platforms continuously launching. However, it’s vital we have access to meaningful metrics on how readers are engaging with publications and their extensions. Detailing this kind of information via ABC is a huge and necessary step forward for the industry. It offers the opportunity to tell a broader audience story through a trusted, gold-standard source.”

The ABC board also noted the critical importance of access to timely data. It supports making issue-by-issue magazine reporting via ABC’s Rapid Report tool mandatory for larger magazines beginning Jan. 1, 2013. With the focus on online availability of key data, the board’s approach will call for the filing of only one Publisher’s Statement per year, eliminating the June statement. It also agreed to consider establishing an allowance of up to 2 percent for credit cancellations. ABC’s advisory committees will be asked to evaluate the details of this proposal in advance of the board’s next meeting in July.

The ABC board also agreed to update the U.S. and Canadian consumer magazine FAS-FAX report to show a total print and digital figure, beginning with the June 2012 report.

Key Newspaper Actions

The board reviewed plans for a broad newspaper vision built upon cross-media reporting. A joint industry CMR task force is expected to make final recommendations to the board in July that will establish the Consolidated Media Report as ABC’s core format. To make comparability easy, the vision calls for the reporting of several mandatory metrics across digital platforms like apps and websites. It also calls for data to be reported more frequently via an integrated online database. If approved, U.S. and Canadian newspapers will report print metrics quarterly and digital metrics monthly beginning in April 2013, with all categories audited annually by ABC.

The board also agreed to revisit the U.S. qualification standard for digital verified newspaper copies, with the intent to change the access standard from semi-annual to monthly, beginning with the September 2012 reporting period. The board is expected to review other aspects of the rule, as well.

Key Business Publication Actions

To establish consistency between all divisions, the board endorsed a new Consolidated Media Report format for U.S. and Canadian business publications, replacing the Multimedia Publisher’s Statement. The business publication CMR is still an optional report format that replaces the traditional Publisher’s Statement. Publishers may now create custom front pages and include data from brand extensions—websites, e-newsletters, pass-along receivership, tradeshows, social media, white papers—to show advertisers and agencies a verified look at their total brand. Print and digital circulation, as required by ABC rules, must be reported.

“ABC continues to evolve and change to meet the needs of our industry and our members,” noted ABC President and Managing Director Mike Lavery. “The CMR is a metaphor for our vision: to provide comprehensive, verified cross-platform metrics that help to facilitate the buying and selling of media. The work underway in each of our media divisions gives ample evidence of the progress we continue to make.”

The ABC board of directors meeting was held March 15-16 in Bonita Springs, Fla. For a complete summary of board actions, visit ABC’s Virtual Pressroom.

ABC is a forum of North America’s leading magazine and newspaper publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies. The organization provides credible, verified information essential to the media buying and selling process. ABC maintains the world’s foremost online database of audited circulation information and a growing array of readership, audience and website usage data. ABC’s digital arm, ABC Interactive, is one of the world’s leading independent auditors of websites and digital ad-based technology. To learn more, visit http://www.accessabc.com.

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