Potential BPA rule changes weighed

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BPA Worldwide is in the midst of redesigning its reports and has four possible changes that will be voted on at its December board meeting. The changes could mark the beginning of an evolution of the BPA statement into a totally different form.

The four proposals to be considered Oct. 22 by the audience development advisory committeeóand again by the BPA Worldwide board in Decemberóare how digital edition or electronic site licenses should be tracked; whether addition and subtraction information is still being used; if the few paid-subscription BPA members should break out their numbers for media buyers; and whether longer-term subscriptions should be broken out on the report.

If any of these proposed changes is approved, both the information currently relayed as well as the look and feel of BPA statements would be altered. "This would totally change the way the statements are constructed and dealt with," said Rich Murphy, senior VP at BPA Worldwide.

Proposed changes to site licenses (subscriptions to an electronic title sent to one employee at a company, then passed along) are drawing the most interest from audience-marketing professionals. "[For BPA], the challenge has been that you never get any more information beyond what's behind that fire wall," Murphy said. "It could be 1,500 people or five" reading a publication. Two propositions for changing site licenses are being considered: List a license as a qualified copy or break those numbers out in a separate paragraph.

Kim Clothier, director of circulation, for the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, wasn't sure that site licenses are any different from the generally unmeasured pass-along readership of the association's title.

Jerry Okabe, VP-audience marketing/circulation at Penton Media, said that site licenses should be handled like any other group subscription. However, Carmel McDonagh, VP-circulation at 1105 Media, thinks a new way of measuring site licenses is needed since as she said, "it reflects the next generation of circulation distribution."

Additions and removals are likely to remain on the statement because media buyers want to see the actions on and health of a file, though some insist that the numbers don't always tell the story: Clothier said that if a longtime subscriber happens to forget to resubscribe, they are listed as a "kill"; and then, if they remember the next month, they are an "add." "The add/kill report doesn't distinguish those long-term subscribers from those who are completely removed and replaced," she said.

As for paid-subscription sales, Murphy said that of the 2,000 titles audited by BPA, only 130 report these numbers and of those, 87 are sales through membership in associations. So it has been proposed that BPA make it optional for publishers to provide this information. Media buyers, however, aren't going for it, believing that any transactional information is useful to have and study.

Finally, many publishers offer open-ended deals to subscribers, and the idea behind the proposed rule change regarding longer-term subscriptions is to have readers sign on for specific units of time, whether it is one or two years, rather than an endless subscription. "The publisher would Ö want to demonstrate to the market that the aging of circ beyond one year is due to the longer term offer, not subscriber apathy," Murphy said.

Murphy said that each publication's statements could eventually have a front page that looks like a "dashboard"óincluding high-level print, Web, event and e-offerings dataóthat displays everything in one place. The nitty-gritty on each would be included on pages that follow. "This is where we want to go, but we don't have critical mass yet," Murphy said. "Not all publishers have it together enough yet to provide that kind of info to BPA."

While that concept is currently on hold along with other changes proposed during the lead-up to the last spring's board meeting, some circulators, such as 1105's McDonagh, are impressed that BPA Worldwide is being proactive. "I believe that this is a very valuable exercise being undertaken by BPA and reflects their commitment to working with publishers and media buyers during times of challenge and change," she said.

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