New ABC Publisher?s Statement Will Count ?Branded Editions? and Nonpaid ?Verified? Circulations

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ board approved sweeping changes in the way newspapers report circulation.

Among the changes: Newspapers that publish so-called “branded editions” — products a paper publishes under a different  name such as commuter dailies or Spanish-language newspapers – can now include them in their total average circulation. And papers that publish in many forms — print, mobile, e-readers, etc. — may be able to count one subscriber multiple times.

At its meeting over the weekend, the ABC board finalized its approval of the recommendations made by the Newspaper Association of America/ABC “Vision Committee” unveiled in March.

ABC released a new prototype Publisher’s Statement that will be effective beginning Oct. 1.

The first page of the new report allows newspapers to present a summary that highlights their total average paid and verified circulation, Audience-FAX readership data and publishing plans for a variety of products.

Other pages in the report detail circulation for the core print newspaper, related digital editions such as e-reader and mobile editions, and a variety of other “branded editions,” such as “audience-focused” newspapers, “alternate-language” newspapers or community newspapers.

New U.S. FAS-FAX prototypes will include additional columns with information on digital replica and non-replica editions as well as top-line circulation data for branded editions.

ABC’s board also approved new reporting and qualifying standards for so-called hybrid and bundled subscriptions.

In its announcement, ABC used an example that parallels the “hybrid” model of Detroit’s daily newspapers:

“An example of a hybrid subscription is when a subscriber receives three days of the newspaper in a print format and four days in a digital format. The newspaper only counts one copy per day.”

In its example of a bundled subscription, ABC says a newspaper can count multiple copies per day from a subscriber who gets a print newspaper, but also access to a digital edition, mobile app or e-reader edition.

“Beginning Oct. 1, newspapers that receive at least 5% of the price of the first or base subscription for each additional product made available in the offer can qualify all copies as paid circulation,” the ABC announcement said. “For example, if a newspaper offers subscribers a three-day print subscription for $100 for one year, it can additionally offer to serve the other four days in a digital format for an extra $5 per year.

“Additionally, a newspaper could offer subscribers a seven-day print subscription for $100 per year and then offer access to the newspaper’s digital edition for an extra $5, access to the newspaper’s mobile app for an extra $5 and access to the newspaper’s e-reader edition for an extra $5. If the subscriber wanted access to all formats of the newspaper, he would pay a total of $115 for the year.”

The circulations could still qualify as “verified circulation” if the newspaper does not receive an incremental amount for each additional edition if subscribers are required to register and activate the digital editions.

“To qualify as paid circulation, the rules go further to require that a subscriber’s digital edition must also be fulfilled, i.e., opened or accessed, if a newspaper wishes to claim that circulation paid on ABC reports,” ABC said.

The ABC board announced these standards for “fulfill requirements”:

“In a hybrid scenario, the print edition of the newspaper counts as paid circulation. For the digital component of the hybrid, the newspaper must demonstrate that the subscriber accessed the digital edition, based on the following schedule:
 
“Effective Oct. 1, 2010 for March and September 2011 Publisher’s Statements, the digital edition must be accessed at least once in the six-month Publisher’s Statement period to qualify the circulation as paid.
       
 “Effective Oct. 1, 2011 for March and September 2012 Publisher’s Statements, the digital edition must be accessed at least once per quarter to qualify the circulation as paid.
 
 “Effective Oct. 1, 2012 for all subsequent Publisher’s Statement periods, the digital edition must be accessed at least once per week to qualify as paid circulation.
 
“In a bundled promotion, the first or base subscription counts as paid circulation. For any subsequent digital editions, the newspaper must demonstrate that the subscriber accessed the digital edition at least once per week to qualify the circulation as paid.”

While these changes are technically “first passage” and are expected to be made final at ABC’s board meeting in November, the changes are effective Oct 1., the board said.

Numerous other changes to reporting rules are summarized on the ABC Website here.

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