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ABC Releases Primer on Verified Circulation



By Marrecca Fiore
05/18/2006

“[Verified circulation] is not a default option for disqualified circulation discovered through the ABC process.”
Teresa Perry

The Audit Bureau of Circulations last month released a bylined white paper to guide publishers through new verified circulation rules in advance of the June 2006 filing deadline. The paper, written by Teresa Perry, senior vice president and publisher member of ABC’s audit and report processing services, covers verified circulation from ABC’s perspective and what it deems the most important reporting and record-keeping requirements. It also details the difference between “public space” and “individual use” distribution and how publishers should report the categories, as well as how the information will be distributed in ABC reports.

The paper begins by defining verified circulation as subscription copies designated by publishers for readership in public places or intended for individual use by recipients who are likely to have a strong affinity for the content of the magazine. “It’s also important to define what verified circulation is not,” writes Perry. “It is not a default option for disqualified circulation discovered during the ABC audit process. It is not merely a new label for sponsored sales programs. It is not another name for analyzed non-paid circulation.

The verified circulation category became effective beginning with January-dated issues and will be reported for the first time in Publisher’s Statements for the six months ending June 30. ABC announced the new verified category late last year, following a round of rule changes regarding sponsored sales that ABC announced last summer, hoping to reinforce advertiser confidence about circulation figures after a string of public overstatements. Those overstatements have led to one of the worst periods for magazine circulation ever, with several companies under suspicion for claiming unpaid distribution as paid circulation through a complicated sleight of hand called “check-swapping.” ABC has since been sued twice for its involvement in two alleged “check-swapping schemes” involving Laptop and PC World magazines.

The paper explains verified circulation as:

1.) Public Place Verified Circulation

Public place verified circulation, which will be reported in the new Paragraph 6A, is defined as subscription copies designated by the publisher for readership by patrons and guests in waiting rooms or hotels. The two are governed by the following guidelines:

Waiting Rooms:

• Recipient locations must have an opportunity to opt-out as a receiving location at least once per year.
• Distribution must occur for at least two consecutive issues, no back copies are permitted.
• Limited to three copies of any single magazine per location.

Hotels:

• Recipient hotel must agree to receive the magazine at its establishment.
• A contract must exist that identifies the hotel’s agreement to receive the magazines, the number of copies to be received, the number of hotel rooms at the hotel, and the distribution locations in the hotel.
• Contract must be renewed at least once annually.
• Distribution must occur for at least two consecutive issues, no back copies are permitted.
• Limited to two copies per hotel room, per issue (if published monthly or less frequently). Limited to one copy per hotel room, per issue (if published more frequently than monthly).

2.) Individual Use Verified Circulation Subscriptions

Individual Use Verified Circulation Subscriptions that qualify for inclusion in the individual use category are distributed to individuals whose names were obtained from a list type of source that should be consistent with the editorial of the magazine. Recipients of the subscription should be likely to have a strong affinity for the content of the magazine.

The following guidelines apply to individual use verified circulation:

• List type sources used to obtain subscriber names should be consistent with the editorial content of the magazine. Recipients must be presented with an opportunity to opt-out of the subscription within the first 90 days of the start of service and at least once a year thereafter. Visit the Audit Bureau of Circulations Web site for verified opt-out notice guidelines.

By Marrecca Fiore
05/18/2006







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