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ABC Board Agrees to Amend U.S. Newspaper Qualification and Reporting Standards

Press release from the issuing company

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Nov. 13 2007 - To meet the evolving needs of advertisers and publishers, the board of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has endorsed a set of sweeping strategic recommendations for U.S. newspapers that aim to provide marketers with more useful information, streamline ABC rules and audits, and modify key circulation standards. The pending changes reflect the collaborative recommendations of a joint industry task force representing nearly two-dozen leading newspaper and advertising executives. The actions come on the heels of the successful launch last week of Audience-FAX, a new U.S. initiative that provides for broader reporting of newspaper distribution, print readership and online audience measurements.
While specific rules and implementation details are to be further defined at the next ABC meeting in March, the board has agreed to employ the changes over the next three years in the U.S. It will consider adopting similar strategic changes for the Canadian newspaper market following further input from its Canadian members.
For the U.S. market ABC has agreed to:
- Revise the definition of paid circulation so that it is more straightforward and intuitive, represents payment by an individual reader or specialized channels and continues 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" by ABC regardless of the price for which a copy is sold. This will bring ABC's U.S. 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.
- 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.
"These improvements are part of a two-year strategic planning process the ABC board has been engaged in to ensure we continue to meet the challenges of today's market," noted Craig Sinclair, vice president of advertising at Walgreen Co. "Our aim was to streamline the audit process, clearly define important measurement standards and improve overall communication between newspaper buyers and sellers. These changes will help us achieve those objectives."
Scott Heekin-Canedy, president and general manager of the New York Times, added: "The actions agreed to by the ABC board are the culmination of widespread input from a broad range of newspaper publishers and advertisers working in collaboration to address the transformational nature of the market today. I am pleased that we reached unanimity and I want to thank the many people who served on various committees and task forces for providing their valuable recommendations."
Other Key ABC Board Actions
The ABC board also 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.
The board 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 the aircraft or at airport clubs, at the discretion of the airline. As with hotels, airlines must select the specific titles they want to receive.
The ABC board also approved the development of a new circulation-forecasting tool to assist newspaper advertisers in the planning process. Via ABC's Web site, 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.
New Directors Elected
The ABC board elected three new directors at its recent meeting: Kirk Davis, president and publisher, GateHouse Media New England; Lannie Dawson, executive vice president and director of media services, Martin-Williams Advertising; and Rob Fisher, vice president and group publisher, American City Business Journals.
The ABC board of directors meeting was held Nov. 7-10 in Chicago. For a complete summary of board actions, visit ABC's Virtual Pressroom at http://www.accessabc.com/press/index.htm.
ABC members are invited to attend a webinar on Nov. 15 recapping important board actions and rule changes. The online session for ABC newspaper members begins at 11:00 ET, while the session for magazine members begins at 2:00 ET. The cost is $149. Interested attendees can register on the ABC at http://www.accessabc.com/training/index.htm.
With more than 4,000 members in North America, ABC is a forum of the world'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 Web site usage data. To learn more, visit http://www.accessabc.com.