ABC sizes up readers p.18

By: Mark Fitzgerald Ready to begin offering standardized audits

After 85 years of verifying the hard numbers of newspaper circulation, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is on track to begin offering audits of the fuzzier numbers of readership size and demographics by this summer.
Four papers are now taking part in the second wave of beta besting readership audits, and Schaumburg, Ill.-based ABC has commitments from chain publishers to begin tests at four more newspapers, says John R. Payne, senior vice president of member services and strategic planning.
"We're pretty confident we will begin rolling out the service in July," Payne says.
With the new Newspaper Reader Profile Service, ABC for the first time will be extending its seal of approval to readership figures. The service comes in response to increasing demands from advertisers and publishers for newspaper audience measurements that have the same cachet as television's Nielsen or radio's Arbitron ratings.
Test audits began at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., in the first week of February and begin next week at The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif., and Oklahoma City's The Daily Oklahoman.
The first test audit was conducted last summer at The Times, the 57,000-circulation Gannett daily in Shreveport, La. The results pleased the chain's director of research services, David Daugherty.
"We want to use readership rather than circulation as the basic unit of how we sell our paper," Daugherty says. "So it has been a huge advantage to have a third party auditing readership so an advertiser knows our numbers are correct."
Advertisers are pleasantly surprised that a newspaper has an audited audience study, says the Times' advertising director Kathy Powell.
"We find it helps us tremendously in showing how we compare with other media," Powell says.
ABC's readership audit works like this: Newspapers conduct or contract their readership study as they do now, and ABC auditors or firms contracted by the bureau monitor each phase of the study.
"We're listening in to a random sampling of the [survey] calls that are made. We make sure the questions are asked properly, and in the proper order. We validate the response sheets to make sure the people actually made those responses," says ABC's Payne.
In addition, the ABC audit verifies that interviewers were trained properly, that data was weighted according to appropriate research standards, and that results were calculated correctly. A copy of the current research standards used in the service is available on the Internet at
ABC's readership audits are also intended to answer advertiser and ad agency complaints that newspaper studies vary widely from paper to paper. The Reader Profile Report uses a format that contains, from market to market, the same 11 standard demographic elements, such as gender, age, education, household income, marital status, and race or ethnicity.
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 20, 1999) [Caption]


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