At BPA Worldwide’s December 2009 meeting, the Board of Directors passed some new rules that were set to go into effect this year for members reporting digital editions. While these changes were not as controversial as the rule change that went into effect last year, they’re still worth noting.
The most obvious change to the BPA’s rules is reflected in how the bureau describes digital editions. The Board voted to change the term “electronic editions” to “digital magazines” for publications and magazines, while the electronic version of newspapers will be called “e-editions.”
Stating the “Content Platform”
Effective with the June 2010 circulation statements and audit reports, publishers must complete a “Statement of Content Platform” form that states whether their digital editions fall under one more of the following categories:
Dynamic – Editorial can be created and/or selected at point of delivery. With a dynamic digital magazine, each recipient can receive a copy with different content and that content can change at any time.
Targeted – Editorial is changed for specifically defined groups and/or platforms before point of delivery. With a targeted digital magazine, each group of recipients, whether they are segmented demographically or because of the platform they use to receive the digital product, receive a copy with different content specifically selected for that group. Apart from minor updates, the content cannot change once the issue is made available.
Enhanced – If a print brand existed first, “enhanced” is editorial that is retained from the original edition and is redesigned and/or supplemented. With an enhanced digital product, each issue’s content is primarily taken (but not necessarily replicated in its entirety) from the original edition (whether in print or digital). Apart from minor updates, the content cannot change once the issue is made available.
Replica – If a print brand existed first, editorial and design are unchanged from the original print edition. With a replica digital product, each issue’s content and design are identical to the original edition. Apart from minor updates, the content cannot change once the issue is made available.
According to BPA SVP Rich Murphy, these categories were created to reflect the constant evolution of digital editions. “When we began auditing digital editions in 2001, there were only digital replicas of print magazines,” he said. “But then, publishers starting offering additional content to make the digital editions more valuable. The next step, we think, is that publishers will begin offering ‘dynamic’ and ‘targeted’ digital editions both in terms of content and platform, especially now that people read digital editions on their laptops, PCs, e-readers and iPhones.”
And because the amount of digital edition platforms is growing, he added, media buyers will need to know how their ads are going to translate across each platform. “Media buyers need to know if the ad they’re paying for is going to look exactly like it does in the print magazine, as well as how it’s going to look when it’s reformatted for the iPhone,” Murphy said “Or, the ad might not even appear at all if the digital edition is on a Kindle, for example. It’s all about transparency.”
Fulfilling Print Subscriptions With Digital Editions
Publishers are now allowed to fulfill subscription requests with digital editions as long the subscriber receives advance notice of the change and is given the option to decline. The advance notice must give the publisher enough time to stop the digital subscription and provide a print copy if the subscriber refuses the change.
Back in 2001, media buyers wanted digital editions to be downloaded copies in order for them to be qualified, according to Murphy. Publishers, on the other hand, preferred gross delivery—in case e-mails didn’t go through or subscribers were too busy to open them—which caused a bit of a debate. Media buyers finally agreed to gross delivery, but only if the subscriber requested the digital copy.
“That’s how we were functioning for a while, but as we got further into the discussion, we realized that the subscribers weren’t really asking for the print copy or the digital copy,” he said. “They were asking for the brand. We felt that publishers should be able to determine how they want to send the content to them. I expected the media buyers to put up a fight, but they realized that it made sense, so it sailed right through.”
Elimination of Physical Address Requirement
For the many publishers that don’t have physical addresses for all of their digital edition subscribers, rest easy. BPA no longer requires physical addresses for every subscriber. And additional line that reads, “email address only” will be added to the geographic reporting paragraphs (B4/C6) for digital edition subscribers that only provide their email addresses.
According to Murphy, this issue came up when publishers of boating and luxury yacht magazines began to express that the majority of their subscribers lived on their yachts all year round and, therefore, didn’t have physical addresses. “This is not only a problem for boating magazines, but for a lot of titles,” he said. “With the amount of publishers reporting digital editions increasing, this was another no-brainer for the Board. As long as the subscribers are qualified, all they have to disclose is their e-mail address.”