Audit Bureau’s Reader Profile FAS-FAX Delayed Until Fall

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By: Jennifer Saba

On May 8, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) releases the FAS-FAX for the six-month period ending March 2006. What won’t be accompanying the much-anticipated report (will the circ plunge finally end?) is the newly created Reader Profile FAS-FAX.

ABC decided to delay the release of the Reader Profile FAS-FAX — originally scheduled for publication on May 8 — until the September circ numbers come out. Like the circulation FAS-FAX, the Reader Profile version is a quick take on reports filed by newspapers.

“We wanted to take a closer look at the service,” said Neal Lulofs, vice president of corporate communications at ABC, “to avoid conflicting data in the marketplace.”

Lulofs is referring to the NADbase report, released twice a year by the Newspaper Association of America. The NADbase complies readership and audience data taking into account both print and online numbers. It culls information mainly from Scarborough Research and Nielsen//NetRatings, organizing the top 100 newspapers by designated market areas (DMA).

As for the Reader Profile reports, ABC vets information given by the newspapers. Publishers can use any number of market data services for the Reader Profiles and they can base their market information on DMAs or newspaper designated market areas.

Three hundred and fifteen member newspapers participate in Reader Profiles — 75% are in the top 100. The data has a “shelf-life” of two years however; many of the larger papers tend to update readership information on an annual basis.

Last fall, the newspaper industry stepped up its efforts to aggressively promote readership and, taking it a step further, total audience, as a compliment to paid circulation.

Though it’s moving in the right direction, there are some glitches.

Prudential Equity Research analyst Steven Barlow noted in its third newspaper circulation study that while Reader Profiles offer more ?robust information, ? not enough newspapers are participating in the service. And for the ones that do take part, the two-year cycle renders market data stale.

?In a year that saw major publishers almost exclusively acquire online properties, and major advertisers spend more on pay-for-performance advertising deals, proposing an audience measurement system that relies on phone interviews and produces data that is supposed to have a shelf life of two years seems, well, antiquated,? wrote Barlow.

It’s something that ABC has heard before. However, it’s also a catch-22: The organization makes changes based on the needs of all its members, including agencies and advertisers. ABC will make an adjustment only if advertisers are calling for Reader Profiles to be updated more often.

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