ABC Issues First Consolidated Media Report, Audits Both Print And Digital Audiences

In what could be the future for auditing the audiences of many business and online publishers, the Audit Bureau of Circulations Tuesday issued its first ever Consolidated Media Report , providing a new "total audience" metric traversing both print and digital publishing platforms. The first such report, which was conducted for trade publisher Crain Communications' Advertising Age and properties, provides a consolidated audience estimate combing the magazine's qualified circulation, pass-along readership, and the site's unique Web visitors.

The new service aggregating print and online media consumption is part of ABC's drive to introduce greater transparency and ease of use in audit numbers for business-to-business and general business publications -- and it may foreshadow similar services for consumer magazines in the near future.

The move comes as media execs seek smoother integration of online and offline ad buys as well as a metric that covers both. To lay the groundwork for a new, simpler standard, the Consolidated Media Report steers clear of the controversy around more precise online metrics like duration of visit and individual activity to measure Web media, instead adopting the standard measure of "unique visitors."



Data collection for the test of the new metric--called "Total Audience Reach"--was completed in June, and a test run was completed in July. A prototype form is now available on the ABC Web site. To participate, a publication must be an ABC member, participate in its ongoing pass-along receivership study, and also submit to an interactive Web audit by the Bureau.

Early reactions from media execs were positive, although they said additional improvements were needed. Steve Greenberger--a senior vice president and chief strategic marketing officer for DJG Marketing who has chaired ABC committees--was enthusiastic: "There's been so much discussion about the ABC statement and its need to have greater transparency, and I think this latest version is headed in the right direction. It allows [titles] to disclose their public place circulation in a more enlightening way, so as to break out different venues." Greenberger also said it allows users "to see a lot of the numbers add up in a simple, easy-to-read format."

However, Greenberger went on: "I think there's room for more geographic breakouts and shifts. A lot of information I thought was important about regional issues and availabilities of magazines is not there yet, and that would help the magazine and agencies, although that will probably mean a longer ABC statement." Greenberger concluded: "Most people would agree that the ABC statement is still a work in progress."

The rollout follows other recent service introductions that aim to make ABC numbers more transparent, including "Rapid Report," which publishes magazine circulation numbers within about a week of sale.

Meanwhile, B-to-B publications have also been pushing projects to increase transparency and accountability in the way ad deals are made--including simpler reporting of publication metrics. In March, for example, American Business Media (ABM), an association of business-to-business media companies, introduced a standard advertising RFP form to clarify advertising goals and measurement methods for executives on both sides of media sales.

In addition to audit and rate information, the new RFP covers "target market industries," "how the client and agency will measure the success of the campaign," and "recommended overall media strategy" as well as its "rationale," campaign close and open dates, editorial calendar, ad format and CPM targets, media research, and competing publications.

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