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ABC Tightens Digital Edition Circulation, Subscription Rules

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Digital newspaper editions and magazine publishers who don’t file circulation figures on time are getting a closer look under new Audit Bureau of Circulations rules.

The ABC sharpened its definition of digital newspapers after concerns were raised that publishers were increasing their use of electronic delivery to pad their circ.
 
Newspapers showed a 78 percent increase in digital copies in March versus a year ago, sounding alarm bells with some ad buyers. Nearly one-third of the increase came from publishers converting to digital their school-paid Newspapers In Education print copies—circulation whose value is often questioned by advertisers.
 
Under the new rules, which take effect Oct. 1, newspapers that want to count their electronic copies as paid circ will need to demonstrate that a subscriber has made an incremental payment for their digital copies (at least 5 percent over the print subscription) or accessed the digital edition.
 
E-circulation that doesn’t qualify as paid may be counted in a newly created category of verified circulation.
 
The ABC also refined the definitions of subscription offers that combine print and digital editions.
 
Responding to calls from advertisers and publishers alike for more transparency in this growing category of delivery, ABC also approved a new reporting statement that would require newspapers to give more detail about their digital editions.
 
The ABC board made the rule changes at its directors meeting July 21-23.
 
While the major board actions focused on newspapers, the ABC also signaled it would get tougher on magazines that miss filing deadlines. The board will expand its notifications of a member’s failure to file its publisher’s statement on time. Publishers who don’t file also will face having their membership terminated sooner than before.
 
The filing deadline rule changes take effect with December 2010 pub statements.