ABC Board Updates Audit, Billing Structure

The ABC board has updated its audit requirements and billing structure for magazines and newspapers, saying it recognizes the tough market environment its members are operating in.

The board ruled that starting Oct. 1, U.S. and Canadian newspapers with a paid circ under 50,000 may be audited every other year instead of annually, and is expected to grant that same option to those with paid circ between 50,000 and 75,000 starting April 1, 2009.

Earlier this year, ABC had made the biennial audit option available to U.S. papers with a circ below 50,000 starting in April 2009. The previous cutoff for biennial audits was 25,000.

The board approved a flat-rate billing model for magazines and top 75 DMA newspapers based on their audit history. The new model replaces a system that billed publications on an hourly rate and is meant to help publishers better project their audit costs. The ABC also will create new online filing tools in September designed to help publishers further lower their costs by filing documents in advance.

Audit costs for large consumer magazines typically run $17,000 to $20,000, while newspaper audit costs usually run from $3,000 for small-circ papers to $22,000 for metros.

In other actions, the board agreed to let consumer magazines test new ways of selling copies, with the understanding that they would work with ABC to determine how to audit those copies.

The board also approved sweeping rule changes designed to lower audit costs for newspapers and give their publishers greater pricing and marketing flexibility.

Among the changes, newspaper copies will be considered paid circ regardless of the price paid, and newspapers may convert home-delivery subscribers to a greater frequency, provided certain requirements are met. Those changes take effect April 2009. Also,