AUDITING PROCESS CHANGES FOR MAGS IN GERMAN MARKET

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BERLIN-A change in the way some magazine publishers in Germany report circulation figures could have implications for the way pages are bought and sold in Europe's largest magazine market.

The new arrangement is a long-coming compromise between publishers and advertisers in a dispute about the practicality of average circulation figures published quarterly by Germany's audit bureau, Informationsgemeinschaft zur Feststellung der Verbreitung von Werbetragern.

The result is that by next July, IVW will go online with circulations of participating consumer magazines based not on three-month averages but the actual data from recent issues. IVW's reports will be accessible online via Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 software as an IVW proprietary service, for an additional fee.

Executives at international magazines say the development won't affect them, and they are glad. "We're not keen to participate in an extra circulation auditing," said Dick Morris, publisher of Newsweek International's Atlantic edition.

On Aug. 14, IVW started releasing circulation statistics for 55 participating weekly consumer titles based on circulations during a four-week period. This service is available via fax only and will continue until actual-issue reporting goes online. IVW spokesman Hans-Gunther Rusch estimates a maximum of 180 magazines will eventually volunteer their actual-issue circulations.

Compliance by magazine publishers with the IVW's controversial actual-issue service will be voluntary. And the new service won't replace the IVW's standard quarterly circulation report on some 1,656 magazines published in Germany. That service already reports audited average circulations over a three-month period. Most magazine auditors around the world base reported circulations on six-month averages.

Though the service is designed to give advertisers more information for analyzing the effectiveness of print budgets, international circulation experts hope this is not the beginning of a trend that would move outside Germany.

"It only causes confusion," said Christel Ploger, executive director of the International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Circulation in Zurich.

Ms. Ploger says actual-issue reporting is complicated and time-consuming, and it weakens an advertiser's confidence if actual-issue circulations deviate from averages.

But deviations are important, counters German agency association

Gesellschaft Werbeagenturen. In a test comparison of actual-issue data for

104 consumer magazines, GWA reports "serious deviations" from IVW

figures in most of the titles.

In a tense meeting this spring, representatives from the GWA, Germany's

magazine publishers association Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger,

and the Markenverband branded products producers association issued a

joint statement underscoring that independent readership surveys, such as

the respected Media-Analyse, would remain the basis for evaluating print

media performance.

This relieved some of the fears of many publishers that audited,

actual-issue data could be used by advertisers as a wild card in page rate

negotiations.

"I don't think we'll be seeing any pressure on rates soon," said Volker

Nickel, managing director of Germany's ZAW tripartite advertising

association. "But in the long term it will create some questions" about

the validity of the current system, in which rate cards are based on

average circulation for the year.

Mr. Nickel says that while publishers in Germany appear to be pleased

with the deal hammered out with advertisers making actual-issue reporting

optional, privately many are seriously worried.

Claudia Reinisch, international advertising manager at Burda upstart

Focus newsweekly, says reporting circulation on a weekly basis is an added

cost for publishers, but concedes that there are benefits for ad

customers. "For editors too," said Ms. Reinisch. "Now they tell which

of their competitors' cover stories sell best on the newsstands."

And competition has never been this fierce. The number of consumer

magazines has increased to 700 titles last year from 350 titles in 1984.

But ad income is stagnating. German consumer magazine publishers reported

ad revenue of $2.2 bi

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