Hearst taps BPA for 'Shop, Etc.'

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Hearst Magazines will be the second major publisher to use dual auditing services, putting added pressure on Audit Bureau of Circulations in the wake of scandals that have unsettled advertisers.

For the launch of its Shop Etc., Hearst will get audits from both ABC and rival BPA Worldwide, executives said. That follows a move by McGraw-Hill Cos.' Business Week last month to do the same. Taken together with comments made by BPA and magazine executives in the wake of Business Week's move, the news strongly suggests that the picayune turf of magazine audience measurement may become a battleground in the months to come.

A BPA spokeswoman declined to comment. In a prepared statement sent via email, a Hearst spokeswoman said Shop Etc. is "taking no action at this point to apply for membership in either BPA or ABC." (As a brand-new title, Shop Etc.'s circulation remains unaudited.)

Both ABC and BPA have long histories in measuring magazine circulation-the data that form the basis for which billions of ad dollars are spent-but hardly any consumer magazines have opted to use BPA for audits. (Two exceptions: Time Inc.'s SI For Kids and Budget Living.) Shop Etc.'s move is intriguing in that, unlike Business Week, it has no affinities to BPA's bread-and-butter business-to-business magazine membership base.

dismissal

Michael Lavery, president-managing director of ABC, said he was unaware of Shop Etc.'s plans for a dual audit, and said his firm "continued to have a great relationship with Hearst." He dismissed notions that ABC was facing increased competition from BPA, noting that ABC had not lost auditing business from Business Week.

One factor that could draw publishers to BPA is that its executives say the organization completes its audits faster than ABC. Mr. Lavery disputed this, saying that in the case of one publication recently audited by both-the Canadian newspaper Toronto Star-ABC's audits were routinely completed more quickly.

`ancient history'

"We feel strongly that, compared on an apples-to-apples basis, we compare very favorably, at least in this one dual audit," said Mr. Lavery. In a statement, BPA President Glenn Hansen called the Toronto Star situation "ancient history" and said "there were some timeliness challenges with the Toronto Star, but the issues involved were addressed by an operational restructuring in Canada."

A spate of circulation overstatement scandals-affecting publications as diverse as Tribune Co.'s Newsday, Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's YM and Belo's flagship Dallas Morning News-have shone a hard light on both the state of circulation measurement and the longtime leader in that space, ABC. ABC caught a number of the overstatements via audits but missed, for instance, when Tribune Co.'s Hoy significantly overstated its circulation in its initial audits.

following the lead

In an Advertising Age article concerning Business Week's decision (AA, Sept. 20), Mr. Hansen said he expected additional consumer magazines to follow Business Week's lead, without specifying them. John Loughlin, president of TV Guide's publishing unit, said that BPA was a "preferred option" in the event of his company launching consumer magazines next year. (Mr. Loughlin is a member of BPA's board.)

Shop Etc., Hearst's answer to Conde Nast Publications' shopping title Lucky but aimed at women in their 30s and 40s, first hit newsstands in August. Its rate base is 400,000.

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