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E-Mags Can Now Count In Circ Figures Even If They Don’t Have The Print Ads

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Just a year after the Audit Bureau of Circulations decided to modify the requirements for counting sales of a digital magazine in the U.S. and Canada toward a title’s circ, the organization is tweaking its stipulations. The big change: the editorial and photography still have to be the same in the print and digital versions, but the ad placements don’t have to mirror a title’s ink and paper editions.

There is one caveat to that modification, however. Advertisers in national print editions must have the chance to appear in the digital version too, if publishers want to count that e-edition toward paid-circ numbers. So if a publisher decides to keep the advertising completely separate between print and digital, it won’t be counted.

Although sales of magazines on digital editions are still relatively small, publishers do expect their app and HTML5 versions to start paying off soon. And although magazine circulation isn’t as bad as newspapers’ sales, any incremental boost helps, so publishers appealed to the ABC (NYSE: DIS) to make some changes.

In complying with the publishers’ requests, ABC President Mike Lavery said in a statement that the changes reflect digital publishing’s new realities and its new deadlines.

Up until the release of the iPad last year, digital editions were commonly PDFs of the print version. So ABC required a digital replica to be just that-an exact version of the print issue, Lavery said, adding that e-paper editions are much more than that. “Even static print ads often require reformatting for digital publication,” he said. “These production requirements can put a burden on the deadline-driven communication between client, agency, and publisher to ultimately determine the advertiser’s wishes, especially for fractional and classified buys. The new parameters simplify the process, make the advertiser’s intent clear, and streamline the audit requirements.”

A number of publishers, such as Condé Nast, had already been complying with the ABC requirements. But Hearst Magazines wasn’t as interested in making sure its titles necessarily fit last year’s guidelines, saying that they wanted to do as much to reach the audience first with added features designed to make more of their magazines. Once that happened, they would worry about ABC circ compliance. Now, as digital readership is expected to grow steadily with sales of the iPad expected to reach about 25 million this year, it looks like both the technology, the consumer and the circ rules are starting to catch up with each other. Release