The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is making strategic changes to its reporting requirements and will be raising fees by 3 percent before the end of the year.

ABC’s board voted to defer implementation of a new publisher’s statement that would have expanded how consumer magazines report metrics for digital publications, and those that require larger magazines to report issue-by-issue data through ABC’s Rapid Report tool until new digital reporting requirements have been vetted further.

“There were a number of announcements that came out of our March board meeting that spoke to what we call our vision task force that has been working in the magazine side of our business,” says Neal Lulofs, EVP of communications & strategic planning, GM ABC Interactive. “It has been publishers, advertisers and ad agencies and they outlined a broad vision for where we would be moving with regard to auditing and reporting, especially in the digital realm. It encompassed reporting broader digital metrics within ABC audit reports.”

As previously reported by Folio: sister pub Audience Development, the new Publisher’s Statement requires publishers to report the number of unique browsers or devices accessing their digital magazines, as well as total visits and average visit duration. The reports will also call for greater detail on print and digital magazine subscriptions and single-copy sales.

“This looks at the Web, apps and things like that as well as more frequent reporting of online metrics,” he says. “As the board discussed it more, they recognized how complex some of the issues are and opted to essentially defer implementing some of these things for at least a few more months until there’s a chance for some of the groups to look at things more closely and gain a little more consensus within the industry.”

Determining how best to track and measure digital publications, not just on the subscription sales side but on the engagement side as well when it comes to how individuals are reading digital editions sits at the core of the deferment.

“The publishing part of our industry feels that information is not fully and widely available and that it’s probably a little too soon to have ABC audit and report that,” says Lulofs. “Publishers shared that point of view with our board, and on the other side of the table you’ve got advertisers and ad agencies that are stepping up demands for more of that information. There’s room for debate and discussion, and I think the board felt it might be premature to codify those requirements in ABC rules. There will be a broader meeting early this fall and the board and ABC will reach out to the MPA, the 4As and the ANA and get all of those groups together to talk out the issues.”

ABC’s board approved a brand refresh that will fall in line with the evolving media landscape. While Lulofs couldn’t provide many specifics, he did say that the fall membership vote on the issue would help determine “if it’s still the right brand for the next phase of the organization.”

The ABC board will increase audit rates and other fees by 3 percent before 2013. When asked why the group is increasing these rates, Lulofs simply pointed to timing.

“It applies to all of our media divisions and it’s the first rate increase in 5 years,” he says. “We’ve been able to hold fees and costs in control for a long time during a difficult economic period.”


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