Audit Bureau Announces New ‘Online Audience’ Option

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By: Jennifer Saba

During its most recent board meeting last week, directors at the Audit Bureau of Circulations proposed ways to integrate online audience estimates in its semi-annual reports.

For newspapers, the board provided preliminary approval to work with the Newspaper Association of America and Scarborough Research to fold their data into reports. The intent is for ABC to allow newspaper publishers the option to report in-market readership — print and online — in a combined net audience figure as well as overall Web site activity.

?This is considered a win-win for advertisers and publishers,? Michael Lavery, president of ABC, told E&P this morning. ?More information leads to better decisions.?

Much of the details have yet to be worked out but it?s expected that the reporting will be approved during ABC?s next board meeting in July. It could affect newspaper publishers as early as the September 2007 reporting period.

Lavery explained the data elements — like readership, total audience numbers, and Web site traffic — will be appended to publisher?s statements and audit reports in a separate page and included in FAS-FAX in some way. He expects, for example, that readership numbers will be replaced by total audience data.

In addition, members will be able to access the information through an online database.

The new reporting, which is optional, will not include an additional fee. ?It?s a value-ad for being an ABC member,? Lavery said.

Lavery also stressed that ABC will verify all third-party data from other companies, not just Scarborough, which measures approximately 80 markets in the U.S. This gives smaller newspapers the ability to report audience data as well.

“For newspaper advertisers, circulation information is essential, but readership and online audience data are also vital,” said Mark Kaline, global media manager, Ford Motor, in a statement. “Having all of this information available in a single source, verified by ABC to ensure transparency and accountability, is a big step forward for the industry and a big plus for all advertisers.”

Additionally, the board gave initial approval to exempt newspaper subscriber rewards/loyalty programs and free or discounted access to online content, provided certain conditions are met.

The board elected Steven Rossi, executive vice president and COO of MediaNews Group, as a newspaper director. He replaces James W. Hopson, who retired as vice president of publishing at Lee Enterprises.

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