ABC Affirms Support for Everyday Circ Reporting

By: Mark Fitzgerald

By next year, barring an unexpected delay, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) will begin requiring daily newspapers with more than 25,000 circulation to report their circ by each day of the week.

In addition, newspaper circulation reports — from the FAS-FAX publisher statements to audit reports — will include a mandatory five-day average, directors decided at last week’s ABC board meeting. Publishers may also be given the option to report a six-day average.

A story posted early Tuesday on E&P’s Web site reported incorrectly that directors were rejecting the reporting of circulation by day of week in favor of the five-day average. The reporting was based on a misreading of ambiguous ABC statements and miscommunication with an ABC spokesperson on Monday.

In fact, a participant in the board meeting told E&P that the advertiser and ad agency directors who comprise two-thirds of the board membership strongly support circulation reporting by individual day of the week: “The whole thrust of this is the advertisers want the seven-day reporting, and (the five-day average) is just an afterthought.”

An ABC official also confirmed that. “The board did endorse and continues to support the reporting of circulation of daily newspapers seven days a week,” said Teresa Perry, senior vice president of publisher member audit services.

The board, she noted, has already set an implementation date for the rules, which would become effective in April 2005 for March-ending audits and October 2005 for September-ending audits. While the board has not yet formally voted on the issue, it could become final as early as its next quarterly meeting, at its annual convention in November.

At the meeting, a participant said, advertisers and ad agency directors, who comprise two-third of board membership, wanted a uniform five-day average in addition to the reporting by day of week, while some newspaper members argued that papers may also want to include Saturday editions in their average.

As it stands now, all reports would include columns showing circulation averages for each day of the week, plus a five-day average, plus an optional six-day average. As the rules are finalized, there is a possibility the optional average may be changed from a uniform six days to allow papers to report any way they like. In their FAS-FAX statements, some bigger-circulation papers break out parts of the weekday, such as Wednesday through Friday, from averages reported for weaker sales days.

Dailies with circulations under 25,000 are exempt from reporting circ by individual days of the week, under the proposed rule.

In other action, the board ended a quaint tradition of allocating daily newspaper directorships on the board by time zone as well as by circulation. The “class 4” directorship, for instance, represented “daily newspapers published in the Mountain, Pacific, Alaska and Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zones.” Effective immediately, the board said, daily newspapers would have four directorships based on circulation size — ranging from under 25,000; 25,001 to 100,000; 100,001 to 250,000; and greater than 250,000 — plus two directorships elected at-large.

The board named two new directors: Linda Thomas-Brooks, executive vice president-managing director, General Motors Mediaworks; and Dennis Skulsky, president and publisher of Pacific Newspaper Group, who replaces the retired John Honderich, former publisher of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.

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