Board Actions

Summary of March 2011 U.S. Board Actions

March 22, 2011

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (March 22, 2011)—The following are highlights of the actions taken by the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ (ABC) board of directors at its meeting held on March 16-17. (Note: The full update to ABC’s bylaws and rules is regularly made available on ABC’s website within weeks following each board meeting.)

Business Publications

Consumer Magazines


Other Developments


Personal Identification Question Eliminated in Nonpaid Direct Request Circulation
Unanimous Consent – Effective March 21, 2011
In an effort to limit the costs of re-qualifying subscribers, the ABC board unanimously agreed to eliminate the need for a personal identification question in certain situations. If the subscriber is required to provide a unique name and password as part of the re-qualification process, no personal identification question is required. Further, if publishers make recordings of qualification efforts available for the audit, no personal identification question is required.

To accomplish this, the board agreed to modify Rule D 12.1 Nonpaid Direct Request Circulation.

Digital Version Qualification Criteria for Nonpaid Direct Request Circulation Modified
First passage
Following input from its buyer and seller advisory committees, the ABC 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. The board, therefore, gave first passage to new qualification standards based on a digital publication’s frequency.

To qualify a publication’s digital version as direct request:

  • A weekly (or more frequent) publication must be accessed nine times per Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A monthly publication must be accessed twice during a Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A quarterly publication must be accessed once during a Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A semi-annual publication must be accessed once per audit period.

To accomplish this, the board agreed to modify Rule D 12.1 Nonpaid Direct Request Circulation.


Definition of Digital Replica Edition Modified
Unanimous Consent – Effective March 21, 2011
When magazine digital editions were first defined in the early 2000s, they were mainly replicated PDF versions of the print editions. As technologies have developed, publishers and advertisers have new opportunities for content distribution. Advertisers, however, often must provide different content for rich digital publishing platforms.

Recognizing these rapidly evolving distribution platforms, the ABC board unanimously agreed to modify the definition of a replica digital edition. As previously required, the digital replica version must, at a minimum, contain all editorial content (including photography) contained in the print edition. While advertising presented in the print national edition must be available for inclusion in the replica digital edition, it no longer must be the same between the versions. Publishers are no longer required to obtain an opt-out confirmation from advertisers.

Publishers are required to include their replica digital advertising policy within their ABC reports. Replica digital editions will continue to be reported in Paragraph 1 of the Publisher’s Statement and credited toward a publication’s rate base.

Task Force Continues Evaluating New and Future Publishing Platforms
For Information
A consumer magazine task force continues its work assessing the evolution of publishing and content distribution platforms. The task force outlined guiding principles to consider as they move forward with the exploration of new magazine distribution channels. The board expressed support for a dual-reporting structure that incorporates the Publisher’s Statement and the Consolidated Media Report, which can feature a brand’s multiple print and digital products.

The board also supported several key items presented by the task force:

  • The integrity of reporting the core magazine’s data on the current Publisher’s Statement should be maintained and expanded to include digital editions that should be detailed by platform.
  • Print and replica digital editions should reflect total circulation and count toward the rate-base guarantee.
  • Digital edition circulation should be excluded from areas where geographic data is reported.
  • “Average Price” and “Analysis of Total New and Renewal Paid Subscriptions” should reflect sales of subscription of both Print and Digital – National Edition consistent with current reporting practices.
  • The “Analysis of Total New and Renewal Paid Subscription” paragraph should include an entry for month-to-month subscriptions.
  • Third-party audience data should be explored as a reporting opportunity for the Consolidated Media Report.

The task force will continue to develop the dual reporting structure and discuss the reporting of nonreplica digital editions and bundled sales. The ABC board expects to review the task force’s formal recommendations at its July meeting.


New Standards for Membership Eligibility Passed
Final Passage – Effective March 21, 2011
The ABC board gave final passage to new membership eligibility requirements that were given first passage at the November meeting.

For daily newspaper publishers, circulation must be at least 70 percent paid, exclusive of any branded editions. The total circulation, inclusive of any branded editions, must be majority paid or home-delivered.

Weekly newspaper members must contain at least 50 percent paid circulation, exclusive of any branded editions. Total circulation must be majority paid or home-delivered, inclusive of any branded editions.

To accomplish this, the ABC board of directors agreed to modify Bylaw 2.2 Eligibility for Membership and 2.11 Paid Circulation Defined.

Modifications to Edition Rules Approved
First Passage
Based on feedback from advertisers and newspapers, the ABC board gave first passage to rule language that would require the explanatory paragraph to provide information on the advertising content of claimed digital circulation.

Additionally, the board gave first passage to 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.

To accomplish this, the board agreed to modify Rules C 2.4 Separate Editions and C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.

Opt-In, Opt-Out Requirements Modified for Other Verified Circulation
First Passage
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 provided first passage to amend rule language to require an opt-in 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 include an aging of the subscription requests for less than one year, one to two years, two to three years and more than three years.

To accomplish this, the ABC board of directors agreed to modify Rule C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution.

Material Changes to Branded Editions During Audit Period to be Presented in Single Column
For Information
Historically, if a material change is made to an ABC-member newspaper during the reporting period, ABC reports split averages. With the addition of branded editions to ABC reports, the ABC board has endorsed a different approach to reporting additions and deletions of branded editions during the reporting period. This approach will help simplify reports and limit audit costs regarding branded editions.

If a material change to a branded edition occurs during the reporting period, a weighted average—as opposed to two columns showing split averages—is presented in a single column. Branded editions added during a period are presented with the effective dates as a line item. If a newspaper wanted to break out circulation using split averages, it would be able to do so using a Statement Plus.

In cases where a standalone member is converted into a branded edition of another member, the ABC report should include the full six-month average for the new branded edition with the proper explanatory paragraph noted.


New Directors Elected to North American Board
For Information
The following new directors were elected to ABC’s North American board:

  • Steve Mueller, COO, NSA Media, representing U.S. advertising agencies.
  • Steve Sachs, EVP, Consumer Marketing and Sales, Time Inc., representing U.S. consumer magazines.
  • Terry Snow, CEO, Bonnier Corporation, representing U.S. consumer magazines.
  • Alex Tamayo, SVP, Media Strategy, PHD, representing U.S. advertising agencies.