Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Digging deeper into the new ABC FAS-FAX numbers: digital replica editions versus non-replica editions

The ABC's definition of replica versus non-replica impacts how a newspaper will report its digital circulation. There is plenty of wiggle room in the definitions that two newspapers could, in theory report their circulation in different areas.

Here are the basic definitions as set down by the November 2011 revision:

Replica: A digital replica, according to the ABC rules must contain the same editorial and photojournalism content as the print edition – but, and this is important, it can be reformatted "to accommodate the delivery device being used, provided the editorial content is presented in a fashion that is similar and consistent with the print publication." Further, if the replica edition is enhanced using video, audio or other multimedia elements, this would not prevent the edition from being called a replica edition.

This is different from how replica editions are defined by developers, where the basic look and feel of the digital edition matches that of the print edition.

Non-Replica: Non-replicas are defined as having the same branding as the print edition, as well as the same content. But a non-replica, according to the ABC, can have different content (that is, additional content). A non-replica, in real life, would really be a digital product built off of the website content (so long as it is not the free access website itself, of course).

Because of these definitions, and the way they are interpreted, you will see wide variation in the way certain newspapers and newspaper companies report their digital editions. McClatchy and Gannett, for instance, tend to have a majority of their digital circulation appearing under digital replica, while both the New York Times Company and News Corp. are reporting their digital circulation under non-replica – most likely due to their new digital products and paywalled websites (which offer access across a number of digital products in exchange for a paid subscription).

In any case, as you will see below, when the numbers are added up from the Top 25 newspapers with digital editions non-replica digital circulation ends up being about twice as large as that of replica editions – but, and this is the point, the non-replica digital circulation from the top two newspapers, the NYT and the WSJ, account for the entire difference.