Although Parenting initially reported that it had met rate base -- its guaranteed paid circulation -- in 2004, the Audit Bureau of Circulations has eliminated 4% of the title's "paid" count, leaving it short of rate base for that year.
"Due to an ABC reclassification that impacts the industry at large," a Parenting spokeswoman said, "there was a shift of 81,000 copies -- from Publishers Communication Systems -- from average paid circulation to average analyzed non-paid."
Sales agents under scrutiny
Publishers Communication Systems is a subscription sales agent, one of many agents and sponsors that help publishers reach readers -- and make their promised numbers. But PCS, which could not be reached on deadline, and many others have come under heightened scrutiny from the audit bureau.
Last July, ABC adopted rules disqualifying any recent circulation that derived from Ebsco Consumer Magazine Services, a subscription agent, or InFlight Newspapers and Magazines, a sponsor. Though the bureau wouldn't name names, it said more than 80 consumer magazines would be affected.
Within a few weeks, an ABC audit stripped Ebsco subscriptions from Business Week's totals, meaning the magazine missed rate base every week during the 12 months that ended June 30, 2004. More agent-related deductions have followed at magazines including Martha Stewart Living, Family Circle, Child, Parents and Details.
It hasn't all been Ebsco and InFlight. ABC also disallowed paid circulation for House Beautiful from an agent called American Collegiate Marketing, leaving the title shy of rate base in six of 12 months ending June 30, 2004.
For its part, Parenting no longer emphasizes paid circulation alone in its guarantees to advertisers. Since Jan. 1, Parenting has defined its rate base to include both paid and analyzed non-paid circulation.