Audit Bureau Will Include Online ‘Audience Engagement’ In Newspaper Circ Reports

Newspaper publishers may get a little ammunition this fall when, for the first time, the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) includes online audience estimates. The move was approved during a weekend board meeting and announced today. Dubbed “Audience-FAX,” the new voluntary initiative will collect newspaper-provided data from in-market print, online and and combined readership from Scarborough Research and unique site visitors from Nielsen/Netratings, comScore Media Metrix and server-based analytic tools.

The information will be independently audited by ABC and included in ABC publisher’s statements, audit reports and FAS-FAX. It also will be compiled in a Scarborough-maintained database available to ABC members. It’s slated to launch Nov. 5 and will cover the Sept. 2007 six-month ABC reporting period. For more details, see the release, the prototype publisher’s statement (pdf) and the FAQ.

With declining print readers, the combined look becomes even more important as publishers struggle to present a clearer view of their reach. As Reuters notes, the NAA and its publishers have been pushing for advertisers consider the total. NAA CMO John Kimball says this should make a difference: ‘”There is a sense on the part of advertisers that, with their gold seal of approval, the data is [from] a credible source.” But, as analyst Ken Doctor told the wire service, it’s just a start: “They have to let people know how often people are visiting what kinds of Web sites for what kinds of content. Combining print and online… may be a milestone, but it’s only a first step in what they need to do.”