'Biz Week' wrestles with 4.5% rate-base plunge

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With the most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations figures for consumer magazines due to be released today, the industry is wondering which titles will suffer the same fate as Business Week, the first to get hit by new reporting rules.

The McGraw-Hill title is moving to mollify marketers after an Audit Bureau report last week showed that the title missed the paid circulation it guarantees to advertisers every week during the 12 months that ended June 30, 2004. It missed that rate base, which is set at 970,000, by an average of 4.5%.

"We are reaching out to advertisers to address any concerns they may have," said Kimberly Quinn, a Business Week spokeswoman.

At least one media agency that has placed ads in Business Week, however, had not heard from the magazine until the end of the week. An executive there called the early week silence "strange."

The Audit Bureau had filed a revised audit statement that lopped an average of 59,572 copies from the magazine's paid circulation count. The Audit Bureau board adopted new rules in July that disqualify as paid any recent circulation derived from EBSCO Consumer Magazine Services, a subscription agent, or InFlight Newspapers and Magazines, a sponsor. Advertising Age was also affected by the new reporting rules (AA, July 25).


Ms. Quinn confirmed that the revisions reflected the elimination of EBSCO subscriptions.

"The subscriptions in question were mailed to professional offices like doctors' offices," Ms. Quinn said. "We verified that the expected readers were delivered to advertisers." Business Week "promptly" stopped doing business with EBSCO after it learned of Audit Bureau's concerns about the company in December 2004, she added.

The magazine is nonetheless preparing for another revision to circulation figures that it has already filed with Audit Bureau, this time for the 12-month period that ended this June. "We expect a minor impact and we are addressing this with advertisers now," Ms. Quinn said. She estimated that the revision will affect less than 1% of Business Week's paid circulation.

More magazines are likely to see some circulation struck from the "paid" column of their circulation reports, but the scale will remain unclear until each title receives a fresh look from Audit Bureau.

Time Inc., the publisher of Business Week rival Fortune, expects "minimal" exposure on the issue, said Susan Brown Williams, a spokeswoman for Fortune and Fortune Small Business. "The overwhelming majority of our titles never authorized the EBSCO program in question," she said. "The few that did and counted the subscriptions as paid ceased selling activity at the end of the first half of 2003." She declined to discuss Fortune individually.

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