By: Jennifer Saba
Censure for circulation fraud wasn’t the only thing on the minds of Audit Bureau of Circulations members during their recent board meeting in Vancouver. ABC is expected to announce later this week a price hike of about 4% for auditing hours. John Payne, senior vice president of communications, said the increase had nothing to do with the current circ fraud revelations concerning the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday of Melville, N.Y., and Hoy. ABC has not instituted a price increase in two years.
And, to decrease the chances of ABC getting duped again, the board changed some rules pertaining to single-copy sales. One standout: the board voted to cut the amount of days allowed under the “omitted day” rule.
The rule can be used in three distinctive ways when tallying circ figures. Any “acts of God” such as a blizzard or flood, holidays and days surrounding holidays, and problems with production facilities fall under this provision. It’s like taking a sick day, where a newspaper can claim any of those reasons to strike circ from those days from the total (though Payne said it’s still broken out in the report).
Under the old rule, papers could claim 40 days for acts of God and holidays; production problems had an unlimited day count. Now, the board voted to cut that to 10 days total. Payne said it would be a dramatic change mostly for major metro markets that depend heavily on single-copy sales.
As reported by E&P on Tuesday, the board also meted out punishment to the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, and Hoy, mainly in the form of omission from next year’s FAS-FAX reports.
Yesterday marked the first time in the history that ABC imposed such strict sanctions on newspapers that committed circulation fraud. “To my knowledge,” said Payne, who has been with ABC for over 20 years, “no paper has ever been censured [like this].”
Correction: Fines were not imposed against the Sun-Times, Newsday and Hoy — as the original version of this story stated.