ABC Conference: The Nuts & Bolts of Audit Rule Changes
ABC works to explain all of the rule changes that were made in magazine auditing this year. But publishers don’t necessarily like the answers.
Against a volley of confrontational questions from the packed audience at the Periodicals Nuts & Bolts session of the Audit Bureau of Circulations annual conference introductory session yesterday, Teresa Perry explained the bureau’s new rules in as much detail as possible.
Although the rule changes that have been passed by the bureau over the past six months;like the creation of the non-paid verified circulation category, the paid net of all considerations rule, the changing definitions of deductible partnerships and sponsored circ;were fully explained according to the letter of the new ABC rules, the questioning went deeper than just the rules.
Publishers have some very innovative and successful programs that are specific to their audiences and products. As one of the circulation execs in the audience so aptly stated: with all the pressure publishers are under now to ensure the quality and quantity of their circulation for the advertising community, why would an audit bureau institute changes that make that even more difficult to achieve?
Some of the programs asked about in the session;things like public place distribution to libraries, partnerships with manufacturers through their agencies, synergies of magazine partnerships and sales that come out of large, multidivisional companies which include different media or products;there are a lot of existing programs that do not fit the new mold.
Beyond that, the list of sponsors who are ineligible for paid sponsorship sales includes: the publisher’s other magazines, a different division of a publisher, a subscription agent affiliated with a publisher or a publisher subsidiary or ad agency. So what ever happened to the synergy of multi-divisional and multi-media companies?
One of the most pressing questions from the audience referred to the ways in which the deductible partnership rules with their “net of all considerations” payment clause, and the necessity for publishers to offer the consumer a “clear and conspicuous” rebate or refund if they decide not to take the magazine as part of the purchase.
For example, one circulator asked if it would be acceptable to offer the consumer a choice between a monetary refund in a deductible partnership program or some other offer;i.e. double the money off of a new subscription. According to the new rules, this would not be acceptable because there would be no money changing hands.
Circulators are now in a position where they have to ask permission of the audit bureau to market their magazine subscriptions in ways that many other industries routinely use.. Is everyone forgetting that print magazines are not like TV, radio, the Internet and email? Print magazines, in addition to being a “medium” for advertising, are also a product.