Circulation audits: They’re a good thing

Let’s say that there’s a magazine in your market that says it has 100,000 qualified subscribers. So, you buy an ad in that publication, believing that your ad will reach, at minimum, 100,000 subscribers.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Maybe they only have 90,000 subscribers. Maybe they only have 10,000.

Not all publishers are honest about their circulation (which is the industry term for “number of subscribers). That’s where auditors come in. These independent companies painstakingly verify a publisher’s claims about a magazine’s circulation, ultimately issuing audit statements that anyone can see.

The two big audit bureaus are the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), which focuses on consumer titles with paid readership, and BPA Worldwide, which focuses on business-to-business titles with qualified free subscriptions. BZ Media‘s SD Times and Software Test & Performance are both audited by BPA, and our new launch, Systems Management News, has applied for its initial audit.

Sadly, not all publishers believe in audits. In the strong words of my business partner Ted Bahr, president of BZ Media, that can create an uneven playing field — and worse, outright dishonesty.

“I am spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire and maintain the circulation I am claiming, then I spend the money maintaining it in BPA required formats, then I pay BPA between $10,000-$15,000 to audit my books,” Bahr says. “That’s the ethical standard for publishing in this industry. My competitors are therefore able to spend way less than I do, and compete with me by cheating and lying to our mutual customers. My only recourse is to try and educate the advertisers that they need to pressure these outlaws into auditing.”

You can read more about this in a July 2 story in Folio Magazine, “Facing Mounting Criticism, ‘Buy Safe’ Organizers Defend Campaign, Publishers weigh in on BPA, ABC pro-audit initiative.”

It’s a follow-up to a story from June 17, “BPA Turns Up Heat on Un-Audited Magazines.”

If you are in the publishing business, or if your company buys advertising, you should read those stories.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick