Audit Bureau Gets Up to Speed

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is taking a big step forward with a new service that promises to make magazine-circulation reports available within weeks of an issue's on-sale date. This will give advertisers ready access to near-current data, and it makes magazines more competitive with the almost real-time audience data offered by online media and TV.

The Audit Bureau took too long to get here. Advertisers and media agencies for years have been prodding the bureau and publishers to speed up the process. "We've been pushing for this for a very, very long time," Mediaedge:cia's George Janson told AdAge.com. But the Audit Bureau, the dominant counter of consumer-magazine circulation, now has come up with a key part of the solution with the ABC Rapid Report.

It's important to note that the Audit Bureau is following the lead of a smaller and innovative rival: BPA Worldwide last September announced it was developing a way for its consumer-magazine members to report circulation figures by issue. Competition is a good thing in audience measurement; the medium and advertisers benefit.

Time is of the essence, for marketers simply don't have the luxury of locking down long-term media plans. Budgets and needs change, and media buyers must adjust plans. That means buyers need to know how a magazine is performing now, not just how it did on average in the last six-month report.

All this puts more pressure on publishers, but magazines that deliver an appealing product to the right audience have nothing to fear. This simply forces magazines to live in the same world of near real-time reports as competing media: TV has the Nielsen overnights, online has NetRatings and ComScore Media Metrix and now magazines have the Rapid Report.

The new reports, in "beta test" at more than 35 magazines, must be accurate and precise as well as fast. But publishers and the Audit Bureau are fully capable of producing a rock-solid service when Rapid Report officially launches in July. Rapid Report will be optional for magazines; advertisers should insist on it. It's about time.

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