Mags Ditching Audit Bureau of Circulations


The recession has forced many publications to re-evaluate their business practices, and for many niche and regional magazines, one result has been to drop membership in the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

While the ABC is considered by many to be the standard bearer for media audits, with some 750 consumer magazine members, it’s lost about 100 of them in the past couple of years. Some of those are titles that folded, but many are 75,000-circulation and smaller titles that switched to other auditing firms or decided to forgo an audit altogether.

Oft-given reasons were the cost of an ABC audit (which can run $10,000 a year for a small publication, including related services) and limited payoff for titles that get little national advertising.

“The ABC audit is expensive, and we find the only magazines we have that benefit from the audit are those who get a significant amount of attention from major ad agencies,” said Bryan Welch, publisher and editorial director of Ogden Publications, which ended Utne Reader’s longtime ABC membership after buying it in 2006 and deciding the publication wasn’t going to get on a lot of nonendemic advertising plans. “Utne Reader has never been one of those magazines, so we judged that the audit was not a worthwhile investment.”

James Dowden, executive director of the City and Regional Magazine Association, said that as national ad spending in local titles has nosedived during the recession, many members have quit the ABC for less expensive firms. A member survey indicated that ad pages for members dropped 23 percent from 2008 to 2009. “Five years ago I think the publications wouldn’t have considered dropping ABC for someone else,” said Dowden. “Today it just doesn’t seem to be the exclusive badge it once was.”

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