Newton, Massachusetts-based Questex Media is “re-engineering” its auditing process to reflect an integrated, cross-platform audit statement. As a result, the company said it has cancelled its membership with BPA and will instead use Verified Audit Circulation as its auditing partner.

On the surface, the move reflects an advertiser-facing strategy to more accurately present product interaction metrics to marketers. A closer look, however, reveals a rift between new audience data being collected by publishers and the ability of audit firms to keep up.

“Even before the economic turmoil began, our customers’ focus was shifting from mass reach to audience value—ultimately measured by results, not circulation statements that show print receivership,” Tony D’Avino, Questex’s executive vice president, said in a statement.

BPA did not immedately return a request for comment.

Questex’s new statements—in effect with September issues—will separately present demos on each brand’s media channels. Print, digital editions, events, Web sites, e-newsletters and supplements will all be broken out. Also tallied will be gross reach—total of each channel including audience duplication—and unduplicated reach—total unique number of audience members across each channel.

Heidi Spangler, Questex’s audience development director, has been a long-time proponent of a wider, cross-platform brand audit. Spangler, the lead on a recent build-out of an integrated audience database, has noted that as the product platform mix grows, so must a publisher’s ability to present customer data according to that product mix.

Speed to Market

The company’s switch to Larkspur, California-based Verified Audit Circulation reveals a level of frustration over BPA’s consensus-based, but slower, approach to an integrated statement. While BPA recognizes the need for an integrated statement, and offers bundled reports that include Web site traffic and trade show audits, Questex—with revenues north of $100 million—felt it needed faster solutions to a growing array of audience development options.

The move also, in a sense, places the audit decisions in the publisher’s hands. “We felt like BPA got so large that there has to be so much consensus to change things. [BPA] is up on things, but the statements haven’t changed that much," Spangler said.

The decision came down to speed and flexibility, Spangler added. “Things are changing so fast. [Verified] is nimble and they’re not determining what we should audit. That was all it came down to. As new things develop, we want to respond to them and still have the auditing behind those claims.”

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