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Publishers are concerned that the current ABC auditing process doesn’t fully represent the digital arm of their business, particularly for enhanced tablet editions, which are not represented at all.

Future Publishing has taken matters into its own hands and commissioned an independently verified audit for the interactive iPad edition of its technology title T3 (right) in a bid to improve transparency (nma.co.uk 16 February 2012).

Nial Ferguson, Future’s technology group publishing director, said, “Enhanced editions are not represented at all at the moment. We wanted to provide this much-needed level of transparency and credibility.”

At present, if a digital edition of a publication is more than 5% different to the print publication, it cannot be included within the overall figures published by ABC. 

The auditor has introduced a set of reporting standards that allow publishers to verify digital publications, including those without a print parent title, on a separate certificate (nma.co.uk 18 January 2012). However, the first reporting period is January to June 2012, so the results will not be available for another six months.

Although reassured by the move, Ferguson said Future could not wait that long to start verifying its numbers.

“It comes down to transparency for advertisers,” he said. “We are selling this as a new platform. If advertisers buy an ad in the print edition of T3, it won’t be published in the interactive edition. Advertisers have to pay to be on this platform in the same way they pay to be on t3.com or if they sponsor one of our events.”

James Tye, Dennis Publishing CEO, said he can completely understand why Future has taken this step and agrees that enhanced digital editions should be acknowledged separately.

Dennis publishes an interactive iPad edition of its performance car title Evo, which features additional enhanced content, videos and pictures.

Tye said, “We have about 6,000 subscribers and have had about 300,000 downloads yet I cannot include any of it in my ABC certificate because it is more than 5% different to the print product. But it is different for a reason.”

He said he would like to see more agility in the reporting. “It is difficult for ABC because it has to cater to all sectors of the publishing industry,” he said. “Dennis is very focused on the digital newsstand, and so is Future, but there are other publishers who are not. They, of course, would like to see more rigidity to the rules because they’ve got nothing to lose, but Dennis has.”

He is also frustrated by the fact that digital replicas of the print edition are not included within the headline ABC figure because consumers who buy the title from the Apple Newsstand will see exactly the same content and adverts as those who purchase the print issue from a physical newsstand.

Tye said, “It is frustrating because for titles such as MacUser, 30% of the sales now take place on digital editions. It’s not giving our advertisers the complete picture. ABC would argue that they can find it out by turning over the page but unfortunately, this is the real world and planners and buyers are busy. They want to make a decision and move on.”

Ferguson agreed that the ultimate measure would be to have a combined figure for print and digital page turner editions, sitting alongside a figure for interactive editions.

“The real clarity comes from that combined figure of the print edition plus the digital replica because that is an acknowledgement of how audiences are consuming content,” he said. “There should also be a figure that showcases the enhanced edition, so advertisers who want a much more interactive and engaging way of reaching an audience know exactly what those enhanced tablet editions are offering. Who knows how it will develop from there but it would be a great starting point.”

The table below shows the latest ABC figures for consumer magazines, including both print and digital versions.

Based on its independent audit, Future claimed it has digital edition sales of more than 150,000 across its entire portfolio (nma.co.uk 16 February 2012), which is considerably more than the figure published by ABC. It clarified that this is because ABC does an annual audit which adds up sales from throughout the year and divides the number by 12 to get a monthly average. Most of Future’s sales were in October, November and December, so weren’t reflected in the ABC.

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Published 20 February, 2012 by NMA Staff

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