BPA Worldwide is in the midst of redesigning its reports and has four possible changes that will be voted on at its December board meeting. The changes could mark the beginning of an evolution of the BPA statement to one that takes a totally different shape than its current form.
The four proposals to be considered by the audience-development advisory committee on Oct. 22 and then again by the BPA Worldwide board in December include how digital edition or electronic site licenses should be tracked, whether addition and subtraction information is still being used, should the few paid-subscription BPA members break out their numbers for media buyers and should longer-term subscriptions be broken out on the report. Any implementation of these proposed changes could alter both the information currently relayed in and the look and feel of BPA statements. "This would totally change the way the statements are constructed and dealt with,” said Rich Murphy, senior VP at BPA Worldwide.
Proposed changes to site licenses, which are company subscriptions to an electronic title that is received by one employee and then passed along and read by others, is drawing the most interest from audience-marketing professionals. For BPA “The challenge has been that you never get any more information beyond what's behind that the fire wall,” Murphy said. “It could be 1,500 people or five.” Two propositions for changing site licenses are being considered: list it as a qualified copy or have the numbers broken out within another paragraph.
Kim Clothier, director of circulation, for the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, isn't clear that site licenses are any different from the generally unmeasured pass-along readership that their title gets. However, Carmel McDonagh, VP-circulation at 1105 Media, thinks a new way of measuring site license is needed “since it reflects the next generation of circulation distribution,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jerry Okabe, VP-audience marketing/circulation at Penton Media said that the site license should be handled just like any other group subscription. “If the site license is a paid subscription with a specific number of 'subscribers,' it should be easy enough to verify that information and include it with other group subscriptions on the BPA statement,” he said. He suggests that unique visitors to the publication get tracked by the publisher so that the number of engaged readers can be verified.
Additions and removals are likely to remain on the statement because media buyers want to see the action and health on the file, though some point out that the numbers don't always tell the story: Clothier points out that if a long-time subscriber happens to forget to resubscribe, he is listed as a “kill” and then if he remembers the next month, he is an “add.” “The add/kill report doesn't distinguish those long term subscribers versus those who are completely removed and replaced,” she said.
As for paid-subscription sales, Murphy discovered that of the 2,000 titles audited by BPA, only 130 of them report these numbers and 87 of those are sales through memberships in associations. So the proposal was to make it optional for publishers to provide this information. The media buyers apparently weren't going for it. Any and all transactional information is apparently good for them to have and study.
As for potential changed down the road for the statements, Murphy said that the each publication's statements could eventually have a front page that looks like what he called a “dashboard,” which would include high-level print data, high-level Web data, high-level event data, and high-level e-offerings data so everything is in one place. The nitty gritty on each would be included on pages thereafter. “This is where we want to go but we don't' have critical mass yet,” Murphy said. “Not all publishers have it together enough yet to provide that kind of info to BPA.”
While that concept is currently on hold along with other changes that were proposed during the lead-up to the last spring's board meeting, some audience developers are impressed that BPA Worldwide is being pro-active. McDonagh says these plans are very good news. “I believe that this is a very valuable exercise being undertaken by BPA and reflects their commitment to working with publishers and media buyers during times of challenge and change,” she said.
Certain Publishers, 1105 Media included, would like to see a more aggressive overhaul of the BPA statement being proposed but, ultimately, the BPA Board makes final approvals. There were so many proposals that were presented during the spring, Murphy said, that BPA decided to not propose any of them at the board meeting and instead create a task force to study some of the proposed changes that audience-development advisory committee members agreed warranted further review.
The task force marked a change for BPA. Such groups are usually made out of members of various committees but BPA instead decided to ask people who made comments to its blog, which has posts about potential rules changes, to be part of the task force. “These were clearly people who were engaged with the ideas of BPA,” Murphy said, “and they were happy to be invited to help out.” Also, unlike other committees at BPA that are set up in silos, this one included folks from every side of the table, including audience developers and media buyers. “We wanted to have a variety of groups represented,” Murphy said, “because we could just come out with statements on this that would be seen as self-serving.”