« BPA considering non-request electronic circulation as qualified | Main | BPA committees begin review of non-request electronic editions »

March 09, 2009

Comments

Sarah Frazier

I echo all the other comments- bad idea/degrades the entire auditing process. It seems to me if a non-requested non-qualified name clicks to view a specific issue, the best that view could be reported is non-requested/non qualified occasional circ until they subscribe.

Scott MacAdam, MacAdam Magazine Marketing

I strongly oppose. As there is virtually no or little cost to fulfill issues (unlike printing and mailing a magazine or generating request) large companies like Cahners, Penton, Penwell, BNP with their vast databases and resources would have an enormous advantage over small publishers to instantly increase circ perhaps 5 times, 10 times and beyond. Even with a couple of small publishers I work with that have limited resources I could more than double the circ with the stroke of a pen - and the cost would be nominal.

The playing field would no longer be level, and markets served in general would see enormous unnatural circ increases. To let the value of that circ to the judgement of advertisers and media buyers would be burdonsome to say the least.

I suggest a better alternative is for BPA to create a separate audit for non-request electronic circ, along the lines of say show attendance or website traffic.

Scott MacAdam
MacAdam Magazine Marketing


Glenn's Comment: Scott, have created the Distribution Verification Service or DVS. It was created to handle products that lack editorial but need verification or in countries where distribution is all that can be verified. It could be a solution for non-requested digital media.

Glenn

Toby Morris

I couldn't agree more with Steve Duccilli. I do not support either of these options.

Non-requested digital delivery is SPAM, and I don't think that BPA should support this or condone it in any way.

And even if the open rates were reported, it would not be an accurate representation of someone really wanting the publication.

When has it been this easy to get a qualified subscriber by just having the person click on a hyperlink. That would essentially be a marketing effort to secure qualified subscribers, and if we're going to start counting marketing efforts as circulation, every publication could put tens of thousands of subscribers in their circ numbers.

Steve Duccilli

I'm against both of these compromises. The following quote from one of the other blog entries illustrates why:

He said: "Reporting 'email delivery' of non-requestor will simply be flagged by media buyers as garbage..."

On compromise #1: Many of us cannot assume media buyers will see that non-requested distribution of any kind is garbage. Those of us who deal with less-sophisticated buyers in our markets often have trouble getting the buyers to understand any nuances in competitive audit statements. Many look at one number: the ratebase.

And he said further:
"This will only accelerate the demand for reporting on 'open rate' (something, I am sure, no publisher wants to expose, in a word, it sucks)."

On compromise #2: Yes! This is EXACTLY why you cannot place the print/e-zine delivery decision in the hands of the publisher. Readers absolutely do not place the same inherent value in digital and print editions. If they did, then why have so few publishers managed to convert more than 3-5% of their current print subscribers to electronic editions? Again, we cannot expect less sophisticated buyers to understand this.

Let's get to the brass tacks of this whole discussion. The real question here is whether BPA should help its members mask the difficult business decisions they are making to weather this storm. I'm against it when the consequences are to further confuse our customers and penalize those of us who continue to invest in delivering quality circulation. We should not have to waste our time refuting sales arguments that have been created, however inadvertently, by an organization (BPA) that we are paying to validate our audience, not marginalize it.

Debbie Blissmer

What about Associations? We use our membership database roster as our circulation and it's all qualified whether they requested it or not, it's in our By-laws. We send emails of the TOC's of each month's issue to our membership database whether they requested it or not. How will these proposed rule changes affect Associations with this status?

BPA RESPONDS:
The rules allow associations to send their members electronic editions as a benefit of membership when included in the dues payment structure. The member need not request the digital version, but must be given the opportunity to opt out with each notification.

Roger J Adshead

I can pretty much see where everyone is coming from:-

The ‘circulation managers’ faction are quite correct about the fact that auditing a non-requested digital edition is just as rigorous a process as auditing a non-requested printed edition, if not more so, because it’s possible to tell whether it was opened…unlike a printed edition.

The difficulty here, though, is that we’re talking about two fundamentally different media. This raises two questions:- Should BPA therefore be applying the same audit standards to both? (answer probably yes), and should the BPA be creating a situation whereby it is actively encouraging members to send out more or less unlimited quantities of digital editions? (answer probably no). Let me expand on this:-

It’s clear from the comments that there is considerable concern about the potential for almost unlimited non-requested copies of digital editions to be sent out and claimed as qualified circulation, supported by a BPA audit. In the case of printed magazines, and especially so with international distribution, there is a considerable tariff involved, which effectively applies a built-in barrier to the number of copies that can be sent out by a publisher. No such cost barrier exists to digital editions, and there is therefore no practical barrier to limit their distribution. This point has been made anonymously on the blog.

The resultant prolific availability of digital editions which will ensue, if they can all claim BPA qualified status, will effectively result in large amounts BPA-approved unsolicited e-mail that many may regard as spam.

This not only undermines the value which advertisers have traditionally ascribed to the value of a BPA audit, but it also runs the risk of undermining a very exciting new medium at the key point in its development and acceptance by advertisers.

This cannot be allowed to happen. BPA and its member publishers have spent too long investing in the BPA brand and what it has always stood for: Credible circulation of (printed) periodicals to qualified individuals in the appropriate sector.

I believe that some BPA members are fundamentally confusing the empirical nature of auditing, with the importance of providing decisions makers with dependable information on which to make advertisement placement decisions (This is why publishers invest in audits, and not to satisfy some ideological notion of what constitutes a rigorous auditing procedure).

BPA and its members need to recognise that printed editions and digital editions are two distinctly different media. Your correspondent Niel Hiscox has it about right when he compares digital editions more closely with websites…i.e. engagement via the web.

Surely, given the nature of digital editions (free to distribute, live links, searchable, forwardable, etc), BPA should be ensuring that all such distribution is reported separately, and treated differently…notwithstanding the auditing process itself.

Non-requested printed editions to qualified lists should be reported as such. There is a natural cost barrier to such, which effectively limits their profusion, and advertisers can decide what value to attribute to these copies. Moreover, the numbers of copies of printed editions that are distributed are tangible (i.e. of a moderate order of magnitude) and therefore comparable to a point,

Non-requested digital editions sent out in large numbers, even to qualified lists, will be regarded by many as BPA-approved spam, especially if sent out repeatedly by the same publisher from different URLs (as will happen). BPA should therefore apply a percentage limit to how much non-requested qualified circulation of digital editions can be reported, in line with the first bullet-point suggestion in your e-mail dated 03 February. To do otherwise is to risk the whole BPA brand, since it will explicitly encourage the undermining of established publishing businesses that are the backbone of the industries that they serve. A profusion of non-requested e-mails that could be interpreted as spam, supported by BPA, is that very last thing our industry needs in these troubled times.

Furthermore, if BPA is going to effectively recognise that fact that printed editions and digital editions are two different media, then it should also insist that they are reported as such on all BPA member promotional literature.

This last point represents a change to the current position but in the light of the much greater awareness of and involvement in digital editions by publishers than was the case when this issue was first discussed, it surely merits a full re-evaluation.

Roger J Adshead
Chairman/Director
Route One Publishing

Emelda Barea

Jobson Medical Information has five print publications that are BPA audited. JMI employs the highest standards in maintaining our requested circulation lists and at the same time serving the needs of our advertisers.

JMI maintains request circulation only. The process of acquiring request subscribers involves extra-ordinary cost and effort that the publishers at JMI are willing to spend to deliver readers that our advertisers want to reach. We, at JMI pride ourselves in delivering requested copies only which represent the highest quality of readers.

If BPA accepts non-requested digital copies as requested circulation, it will definitely devalue the purpose of a BPA audit. Then what’s the point of having an audit? Reporting non-requested copies as requested circulation will cause confusion with the advertisers. Anyone will be able to add non-requested copies to their subscriber list but the quality of the readers will not be desirable. By doing so, publishers are not serving their advertisers’ needs.

As a circulation professional, I fail to understand why BPA is even considering this notion of accepting non-requested digital copies as request circulation. What happened to the process of a BPA audit where the auditors need to see a written request from the subscriber?

Bottom line is this, accepting non-requested digital magazine copies as request circulation is a bad idea for BPA, publishers and the print magazine industry.

Tim Smith

No digital versions should be counted on a BPA audit because even if requested there is no guarrantee who the person is reading it. I do a controlled circulation so I know who is getting my book with no wasted copies.
I have over 40,000 downloads of my digital version per month and I don't count them as a part of my circulation because it could be a 12 year old girl who opts in to receive it. Counting that as qualified circulation is unethical and no digital copies should be counted on a print audit.. period.
Agencies and advertisers will catch on to this fluff people are adding onto the audit statement and it will damage the image of not only the people who are using this to cheat the system but it will hurt the credibility of a BPA audit altogether.
I have done this audit on many of my magazines in the past to prove I was delivering what I promised. I have another magazine that is ready to start the audit process and this rule has cast serious doubt in what a BPA audit actually proves anymore. If all I want is to show is how many I can claim, I will just post print and postal receipts on my circulation page and save the money and the headache of this process.

My other question is how do you guarrantee that a person who get's the printed copy isn't just requesting a digital copy too? Counting the same person twice for the same audit kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it?

Anyway, I know it's hard to back up but if you are going to count digital copies they should be on a seperate audit statement, with a different set of rules. Counting them as a part of your factual numbers is bogus, unethical and will ultimately cost BPA some credibilty in the eyes of the advertisers.

GLENN HANSEN COMMENTS: Tim, to clarify...digital copies are permitted as circulation provided the publisher can qualify the recipient (prove they are the right target audience usually by title and type of business), and the copy must be requested.

Non requested digital copies are not included anywhere on the BPA statement at present.

People can request to receive both the print and digital copy, but it is reported as such as "BOTH" and it counts only as one copy, it is not a count of two.

Thanks for keeping the dialog going.

Glenn Hansen for a publisher who wishes to remain anonymous

Certainly (as per advocates of this item) there’s no logical theoretical difference between a non-requested digital and print copy, but there are huge practical ones including:

- salesmen collating overall figure so claim of overall circ rather than splitting print/digital; we all know this will happen at the struggling companies and we know it takes time we can’t spare to refute such claims; it’s hard enough getting across diff btw requested and unrequested as it is.

- circulations will get inflated and it will be harder for us to charge proper rates for our print products if media buyers start to conflate figures into one cpm score; that’s a disaster for those of us still trying to produce print to a high standard.

- Why can’t these publishers go to the trouble of getting digital copies requested thereby: reducing spam from business publishers and making it harder for the rest of us; increasing credibility of offereing.

We should fight this hard. It will enable the weak to survive…

Robin

Compromise Position: ONE - NO
Compromise Position: Two - NO

Cary Herrman

Just make an additional new column that lists electronic viewers. Done. Why are we forcing a square peg into a round hole? It's a new age- we simply add to what there is- not force into categories that were not designed for the technology. Best of luck.


-Cary Herrman
Co-founder and president
Ocean Bridge Group

Brad Mitchell

I agree with Mike Serino's comments above. In addition, I concur with Eric Shanfelt in that Digital Magazines are "replicas" and not magazines. I am not in favor of their inclusion anywhere on the BPA statement. I am a purist, and have never been in favor of including digital as qualified circ.
But since the digital train has already left the station, I would opt to keep the rules as they stand now. This requires Digital to be Request-only and broken out in the reporting.
Non-request digital circulation is really a bad thing. You guys who are pushing for it need to remember that you need to be able to justify these copies as part of the loyal readership you are touting. I would be embarrassed to call myself a circulation professional if I build my audience based on some email addresses I dug up and someone opening my email alert. That’s really weak.
If a non-request email recipient opens up an email alert it is certainly not a request. It’s about the same as opening up the envelope of a direct mail solicitation offer for a paid magazine. They may be curious enough to open it, but it is not a request, an opt-in, or a desire to receive it. In fact, it’s not even qualified – it’s just an email.

Mike Serino, Scranton Gillette Communications

Compromise Position One:

1st question – No. For all the same reasons listed previously.

Specifically:
However, one publisher who wished to remain anonymous pointed out there are differences between print and digital non-request sources. “The process of acquiring a directory and serving it with a printed edition involves hard costs that place a very effective governor on any spurious intentions a publisher may have for making inflated claims,” he said. “If they want to build a circulation argument based on, say, 50,000 directory copies, it’s going to cost them dearly to do so. E-publishing provides no such built-in ‘BS barrier.’ Serving 50,000 [digital] copies costs no more than serving five.”

2nd question – No. The individual opening the link to the digital edition is simply viewing the information sent to them. They have NOT asked to receive the publication. No “Qualification Card” has been completed requesting to subscribe.

Compromise Position Two:

No. The subscriber should determine / request the format they want to receive the publication; not the publisher.

Mike Graziani - SLACK Inc.

Regarding option #1: Do you mean to count all emails sent to non-requesting recipients as "qualified" digital circulation? Doesn't this run afoul of CAN-SPAM laws?

I think that we need to keep digital editions separate from the print edition BPA. This clarifies in the agency/client's mind which medium is being audited. I would treat digital editions as we plan to treat email newsletters. Which begs another question, why would we count an email that is opened as a valid, qualified recipient of a publication and then give greater weight if they click-through to the actual digital edition? This action is no more a request than picking up a copy of a print edition at a tradeshow booth to browse it. It does not, in and of itself, indicate a desire to receive the digital edition. Furthermore, if future emails get deleted without an open, at what point does that recipient get dropped as a qualified, requester? There are too many opportunities for inflation of circulation for me to support this change. I believe it will undermine the trust in our print BPA statements.

Regarding option #2: Would this mean that a qualified requester would receive either digital or print at the publisher's discretion? I assume the recipient would be counted simply as a qualified requester without preference. Again, this creates confusion in the client's mind and an integrated BPA does not bring needed clarity. No matter the adoption of digital editions by readers, we cannot deny that it is a different interaction with our content and advertisements. In some ways, enhanced and in other ways less involved than with print editions. But we need to maintain that distinction in our auditing in order to best serve our clients and industry.

Rich Cress

Yes, BPA continues down the slippery slope they started when they decided that non-requested circulation is qualified. We all know that it isn't, and never was, qualified.

Digital junk mail is no different than printed junk mail (junk if the recipient has no interest in it) - except that it's so much cheaper to deliver.

Rich Cress, CSC Publishing, Inc

Jeff Martin (Nxtbook Media)

I do believe both position are valid to be implemented. If a non-requestor qualifies themselves after receiving a non-requested email, then they should be considered qualified circulation. Those that just get the email, but don't qualify themselves should be considered "non-qualified" Position two would allow the publisher more flexibility to create digital only editions as part of their circulation. As more publishers consider reducing their frequency this would allow them to keep their same overall frequency and deliver individual issues as print or digital.

Jim Fischer

The 'silver bullet' that will kill this is already in the rules. Publishers have the option of reporting 'email delivery' or 'open rate.' Inclusion of non-requestor email delivery will beg the question with agencies of open rate. Reporting 'email delivery' of non-requestor will simply be flagged by media buyers as garbage. This will only accelerate the demand for reporting on 'open rate' (something, I am sure, no publisher wants to expose, in a word, it sucks). So, rule away. I am sure you plan to charge for gross circulation claims and, as such, this does improve your bottom line. But it is a Pandora's Box for digital editions.

My advice to those desperate publishers wanting to lower their cpm by this method: Be careful what you wish for. Fools and their money are soon parted.

My comment to BPA: Your job is to audit distribution, of any kind. Go for it. Serve the needs of full disclosure.

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