Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ABC will now allow advertising to differ in print and 'replica digital editions' giving publishers more flexibility

The Audit Bureau of Circulations announced today that the board has agreed to modify the requirements for US and Canadian consumer magazines, allowing advertising to differ between print and digital editions.

Marie Claire's Zinio edition on an iPad.

"Early magazine digital editions were commonly PDFs of the print version, so ABC required a digital replica to be just that—an exact version of the print issue," ABC President Mike Lavery said. "But with today's advanced publishing software for tablet devices like the iPad, the environment is far richer and more complex. Even static print ads often require reformatting for digital publication. These production requirements can put a burden on the deadline-driven communication between client, agency, and publisher to ultimately determine the advertiser's wishes, especially for fractional and classified buys. The new parameters simplify the process, make the advertiser's intent clear, and streamline the audit requirements."

The ABC also has instituted a rule change concerning digital newspaper subscriptions. Now, if a newspaper offers a digital subscription "without a definitive term", that is, open-ended, the subscription will qualify as paid for only 30 days. After that the subscription will be reported as "verified".

If I am reading this right, this would effect Kindle Editions that are sold as a per-month charge, but are open-ended. This should not effect tablet editions that are sold either as daily, weekly, monthly or annually -- that is, with a definitive time frame associated with the purchase.

The rules for digital editions remain pretty forgiving. According to the ABC, to qualify a publication’s digital version as direct request:
  • A weekly (or more frequent) publication must be accessed nine times per Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A monthly publication must be accessed twice during a Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A quarterly publication must be accessed once during a Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A semi-annual publication must be accessed once per audit period.

The rule changes, especially those effecting magazine publishers, should be welcome. Unfortunately, the continuing reference to "replica editions" is both wrong-headed and confusing. Since most consumers are not in favor of "replicas", based on consistent feedback given in the App Store and through comments online, the constant reference to "replicas" encourages the creation of simple, unpopular products.

However, the ABC has been consistent in saying that the term applies to the content, not the form. "As previously required, the digital replica version must, at a minimum, contain all editorial content (including photography) contained in the print edition," states the ABC statement.

Based on this criteria, a tablet edition that contains all the same stories and photographs, but are reformatted into portrait and landscape layouts, for instance, can still be considered a "replica" for paid circulation purposes.