BPA Worldwide Approves A Standard For Text Message-Based Subscription Renewals

A third-party audience-audit agency has approved the use of text messages, also known as short message service (SMS) messages, for subscription renewals.

The decision was made in December by the board of directors of the BPA Worldwide, the agency that audits the audience claims of business-to-business and consumer media and events. BPA audits cover magazines, newspapers, web sites, events, email newsletters, digital magazines and other ad-supported media.

In addition to these media companies, membership includes marketers and advertising agencies.

BPA’s move is significant because it represents the latest nod to technology by third-party auditors, the lingua franca for media credibility before the rise of the internet.

In the days before Comscore and Google Analytics, when newspapers, magazines and newsletters were primarily — or entirely — print, an audience audit was the only way for advertising buyers to ensure the media brand actually had the audience it was claiming. First-year, direct-requests (meaning renewals were not handled through a sweepstakes provider, or some other agent) in B2B and consumer media was the optimum proof of audience engagement.



Newspapers and magazines distributed for free in doctor’s offices and grocery stores, and those that depended on discounts and giveaways, were far less valuable for advertisers.

Then media pivoted to the web and tracking audience engagement became much more transparent. Engagement was easily provable through incontrovertible metrics. Third-party audit bureaus became less significant.

But as online audiences and advertising evolved, the pendulum swung again, with some forms of programmatic advertising, and retargeting, in particular, becoming vulnerable to deceptive practices.

In the face of disruption, audit agencies had to adapt. First, they allowed renewals by phone, then email, and now text.

BPA Worldwide CEO Glenn Hansen said BPA has had inquiries from publishing members over the last year regarding subscription renewals conducted via SMS/texts. “Since a standard did not exist, publishers typically contacted subscribers via text, but directed them to an online qualification form to complete the renewal process,” Hansen stated. “But that didn’t fully answer the need for a BPA-compliant SMS requalification process in the marketplace. The update to this standard solves that challenge.”

Under the standard, designed for business publications, BPA media members can use an SMS program for requalification efforts if they meet all the following conditions:

  • Media owner must have expressed consent from the subscriber to communicate via SMS.
  • Outgoing text messages must contain an adequate description of the nature of the request.
  • Outgoing text messages must contain adequate request question and instructions to the recipient.
  • The outgoing text message, or a subsequent text message sent after the recipient renews their request, must provide the recipient an opportunity to update their information.
  • The program must capture the outgoing phone number, the phone number of the recipient, the time and date of the outgoing message, the time and date of the recipient’s reply, and the recipient’s message.
  • Publications must maintain proof of the initial request.
Documentation of the respondent’s conformance must be available either through previous request or secondary source and be current within three years of the analyzed issue.
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