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ABC Circulation Rule Change Affects 80 Publications

Two Third-Party Agents' Subscriptions Disallowed as Paid Circulation

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NEW YORK ( -- Magazine and newspaper subscriptions from two companies widely used by publishers will no longer count as paid circulation, the Audit Bureau of Circulations announced today. The ABC board determined one agent, EBSCO Consumer Magazine Services, had not kept proper records and a sponsor, InFlight Newspapers and Magazines, had not paid publishers for subscriptions.

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Few details
Though the move was intended to improve the accuracy and reputation of ABC circulation reports, ABC board members offered few details. The decision affects more than 80 consumer publications, the bureau said, but declined to identify them or estimate how much circulation any or all might lose.

Any circulation adjustments will eventually show up in ABC audit statements, but the statements will not cite the EBSCO or InFlight disqualifications as a cause.

The ABC board voted in March to censure EBSCO's consumer magazine division, which worked for major publishers like Time Inc. and Conde Nast Publications, for "improper record keeping," and parent EBSCO Industries subsequently closed that division in May. Circulation derived from EBSCO from July 2003 to present will be disqualified as paid circulation.

Magazine distributor InFlight
ABC said InFlight, which distributes magazines in airports and other areas, did not pay publishers for copies that were to be counted as paid starting in the second half of last year.

An EBSCO spokeswoman declined to comment; InFlight could not be reached.

The change also affects a few newspapers and about half a dozen business publications, including Advertising Age.

Patrick Sheposh, director of circulation for Ad Age parent Crain Communications, said in a statement that Crain will comply with ABC rules. "We will work with the ABC to assure that those subscriptions involved will be restated, and it will not reduce the total circulation for Advertising Age during that period," he said.

Circulation accuracy
The magazine industry's struggle to improve the accuracy of circulation information goes back at least as far as the revelations of inflated circulation at several Gruner & Jahr USA titles, details of which emerged as the publisher and Rosie O'Donnell sued each other over its disastrous joint venture, Rosie magazine.

But the issue has gained momentum in the last 12 months as more circulation scandals erupted at publications including Tribune Co.'s Newsday and Hoy.

On other fronts, ABC agreed to continue developing a service to verify distribution of newspaper inserts, to be tested over the next few months at papers including The Washington Post, The Dayton Daily News, the St. Petersburg Times and The Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa. It said it expects to introduce the service in January.

Publisher's statement changes
ABC also approved format changes to newspaper Publisher's Statements and Audit Reports to reflect circulation reporting by days of the week as well as the five-day average. The new information will appear beginning in this September's Publisher's Statements.

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