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(July 16, 2001) -- The Audit Bureau of Circulations gave final approval to a proposal radically revamping how it will count magazine circulation.

The new rules do away with the longstanding "50% rule," in which copies sold for less than 50% of what the publisher defines as a basic price could not be counted as paid circulation. Under the new rules they will -- but, in order to appease advertisers, forthcoming circulation statements will feature much more detailed information on how much the magazine is charging for subscriptions. The changes will go into effect for the six-month period ending Dec. 31.

The moves will give publishers, many of whom are struggling to stem circulation declines, much greater leeway in making their rate bases, or circulation guaranteed to advertisers.The downside is that egregious abusers of cheap subscriptions will be easily visible.

ABC also came up with new rules for sales of newspapers' electronic versions, which would be a boon to the few newspapers that have successfully sold subscriptions to electronic editions such as The Wall Street Journal.

"Any time you get the capability of [seeing] everything you want to measure, then you are in a better place," said Valerie Muller, senior vice president-director of print services for Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York. The downside, she warned, is that "any time there is a measurement, there's always a way to abuse the measurement." -- Jon Fine

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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