ABC (the Audit Bureau of Circulations) is the industry body which measures circulations, news stand sales, subscriptions etc for magazines and newspapers in the UK. It gathers an immense amount of detailed information on thousands of publications, much of it is freely available from its excellent web site.
There is also an ‘electronic’ offshoot, ABCe, which measures the reach and popularity of some of the large UK media web sites. ABCe has recently amended its basic approach to measurement of web presence. ‘Unique Users’ not ‘Page Impressions’ is now the mandatory minimum to be certified by ABCe. This does not mean that they will stop counting things that they have been counting (Page Impressions), but priority and more weight will be given to the Unique User data. The in’s and out’s of this are helpfully covered by Shane Richmond’s blog on the Telegraph.
Now that ABCe has got its act together it is perhaps time that the bigger brother (ABC without the ‘e’) looked again at its rule book for Digital Editions. This was last issued in June 2004, and unlike all their other Rule Books has remained unchanged (very odd since web technology is moving so fast). There are some obvious bloopers in the present rules. Here are two: (1) ABC expects a digital edition to be essentially the same but it may omit the Classified Advertising. Why should that be? Is the assumption that Classified Advertising cannot work in digital editions??? (2) The rules on Free Digital Editions are written as though all practical free editions will be ‘downloads’ in which a ‘copy’ is mailed to a recipient or the reader downloads an issue (PDF-type). Would you only count the circulation of Metro or CityAM if you had the name of the people who were picking it up?
The magazine industry’s auditing systems have a brilliant future when they wake up to the fact that auditing can be much more detailed and certain with the web. But you have to be measuring the right things, for example the effectiveness of the Classified Advertising as indicated by click-throughs in the digital edition. It is good to see ABCe moving its goalposts as it plays the new game. ABC now needs a lesson from its scion.