Board Actions

Summary of U.S. Board Actions from September 2010 Interim Meeting

September 21, 2010

Arlington Heights, Ill. (Sept. 21, 2010)—The following are highlights of the actions taken by the Newspaper Committee of the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ (ABC) board of directors at an interim meeting held Sept. 16. The committee met to address a number of items that were given initial approval in July, in anticipation of an Oct. 1 effective date for ABC’s new paid/verified and branded editions reporting format. The changes pertain to U.S. newspapers only. (Note: The full update to ABC’s bylaws and rules is regularly made available on ABC’s website within weeks following each board meeting.)


Action Deferred on Print/Digital Hybrid and Bundled Subscriptions
After gathering input from its advisory committees and members, ABC’s Newspaper Committee voted to defer final approval on Rule C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions until additional input is gathered.

At the July meeting, the board gave initial approval to two significant changes that would impact how print/digital hybrid and bundled subscriptions will qualify for ABC reporting:

  • The first change was to require a five percent incremental or itemized pricing model to qualify hybrid and bundled subscriptions as paid.
  • The second modification allowed newspapers that do not collect an incremental amount for each product in the subscription to qualify the circulation as paid or verified based on a progressive register, activate and fulfill model.

The board originally intended to make the above changes effective Oct. 1, 2010, but the Newspaper Committee has delayed implementation to allow for further input and discussion.

ABC will continue with its current standards for U.S. newspaper digital editions that qualify paid circulation as at least one cent, net of all considerations. These standards will be in effect until the ABC board of directors takes further action.

In a hybrid scenario, the newspaper offers a single subscription but some days are delivered via electronic edition, while the remaining days are delivered in print. The newspaper only intends to count one paid circulation unit per day. To qualify as paid circulation, an amount of no less than one cent must be collected. For more information about qualifying a hybrid subscription, including examples, visit ABC’s website.

In a bundled scenario, the newspaper offers both a print and digital subscription and intends to count multiple paid circulation units per day. The offer of two or more subscriptions to the same newspaper, regardless of delivery format, falls under the qualification standards of the multiple subscription rule and requires newspapers to collect at least one cent per subscription to qualify the circulation as paid. For more information about qualifying a bundled subscription, including examples, visit ABC’s website.

Final Approval for Digital Edition Verified Circulation Requirements
Final Passage – Effective Oct. 1, 2010
Although the Newspaper Committee deferred action on most of Rule 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions, they did give final approval to a section governing verified digital editions. This action qualifies replica and non-replica digital copies served in an NIE environment, as well as employee and carrier/agent copies, to be included in verified circulation.

The rule outlines the following:

  • NIE copies – Digital editions may be used for Newspapers in Education service provided the school or teacher submits an affidavit regarding the number of students using the newspaper and affirms that those students used the digital editions.
  • Employee copies – Digital editions may be used to provide copies of the newspaper to employees of the newspaper.
  • Agent/carrier copies – Digital editions may be used to provide copies of the newspaper to agents and carriers of the newspaper.

Rule Governing Separate Editions, Including Branded and Digital Replica and Non-Replica Editions, Also Approved
Final Passage – Effective Oct. 1, 2010
Rule C 2.4 Separate Editions was also given final passage. A significant portion of this rule pertains to the new “branded editions” category of circulation. ABC is developing and will release more specific guidelines for branded editions in the upcoming weeks.

The rule outlines the following ABC guidelines and qualifications for branded editions:

  • A branded edition is defined as an edition that displays a name different from the ABC member newspaper name on its front page.
  • A branded edition logotype should be consistent with the member newspaper’s basic logotype on all branded editions and the word “edition” must also be displayed.
  • A branded edition that is published in a different format than that of the member newspaper (broadsheet versus tabloid) will be noted in the explanatory paragraph of ABC reports with an inclusion of the distribution and the average number of copies.
  • A branded edition may be in a foreign language.
  • A branded edition may be distributed in a digital format but it must have a print foundation.
  • A branded edition does not need to be reported separately if the circulation for all branded editions is less than three percent of the newspaper’s total average paid and verified circulation (including branded editions) and less than 2,000 copies per issue. Additionally, newspapers that participate in ABC’s Community Newspaper Audit service are not required to report branded editions separately.
  • A branded edition is subject to review by ABC’s managing director, who may deny or approve a branded edition. The managing director can also require separate reporting of an edition as a branded edition based on subjective factors, including the editorial content of an edition versus the editorial content of the member newspaper.
  • A branded edition’s qualifying circulation is limited to circulation that does not overlap with households subscribing to the member newspaper, meaning only the circulation delivered to households that do not subscribe to the member newspaper will be counted on ABC reports.

The rule also provides the following clarification regarding digital editions:

  • Replica digital editions must be consistent in character and content with the print version of the newspaper. It must include the great majority of the editorial and advertising content that is available in the print edition, but it may include updated news reporting.
  • Non-replica digital edition circulation must also be consistent in character and content as the member newspaper but advertising content may differ. Digital non-replica copies must be reported by platform (e-reader, mobile, website, etc.).
  • All digital edition circulation that is eligible for reporting in the paid or verified circulation categories is limited to restricted access websites and cannot include public access websites.

Final Approval Given to Numerous Other Outstanding U.S. Newspaper Rule Changes
Final Passage – Effective Oct. 1, 2010
The Newspaper Committee voted unanimously to give final approval to numerous outstanding rule changes that were given initial approval in July. All of the rule changes are related to the work and recommendations of the NAA/ABC Vision Committee. Below is a complete summary of the final rule changes:

  • A 1.2 Permissions and Prohibitions – Modify rule to govern publicity issues regarding newspapers comparing like data elements (e.g., paid, verified). Newspapers that want to use data incorporating branded edition circulation must include the circulation data of the branded editions used to arrive at the total average circulation number.
  • C 1.2 Prices – Modify language from electronic editions to digital editions.
  • C 2.1 Circulation Averages – Modify rule to allow for multiple “power days.” Also modify to allow U.S. newspapers to report an executive summary and require sub-paragraph detailed reporting for print, branded, and digital editions. Finally, exempt CNA newspapers from the executive summary disclosure and permit a “total print” number.
  • C 2.2 Morning, Evening, All-Day and Sunday Designations – Eliminate the requirement for newspapers to include a general description of policies on local display, classified and national advertising.
  • C 2.7 Days Omitted from Averages – Allow an edition to be eligible for omission provided that it counts toward the 10 allowable omitted days.
  • C 3.2 Educational Programs -- Modify rule to require educational copies to be supported by affidavits and add qualifications for home delivered NIE.
  • C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution – Adds a stipulation requiring advance notification to ABC of all targeted home delivery distribution via the Preprint Projection Center. Allows for digital edition service, if the subscriber accesses the copy. Expands verified distribution to publisher-controlled venues, including honor boxes and ongoing hawker distribution as long as distribution is consistent in volume and location.
  • C 5.3 Combination Sales – Modify rule to allow for digital edition service in Joint Distribution Agreement (JDA) situations, to be based on the requirements of Rule C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.
  • C 5.11 Vacation Paks – Modify rule to exclude digital editions from vacation paks.
  • C 5.13 Subscription Offer Based on Acceptance Unless Declined – Modify rule to allow digital editions to be used in frequency conversions, based on the qualification standards outlined in C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.
  • C 5.14 Transfers on Consolidation – Modify rule to require new activation and access when two or more newspapers merge.
  • C 5.15 Purchase of Subscription List – Modify rule to require new activation and access when a newspaper sells its subscriber list to another newspaper.
  • C 7.9 List of ZIP Codes and Towns Receiving 25 or More Copies -- Modify rule to require that branded and digital editions be reported separately in this analysis.
  • ABC Policy Regarding the Sale of Carrier-Delivered Circulation and Single-Copy Sales of Newspapers – Modify policy to allow newspaper to qualify digital editions. Only those digital editions accessed by the subscriber will qualify for inclusion on ABC reports.

New Optional Report Format Detailing Total Print Metrics Approved
Unanimous Consent – Effective Oct. 1, 2010
The Newspaper Committee also approved a new optional report format that allows newspapers to separately report total print and digital metrics. A prototype of this report format is available on ABC’s website.