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O’ Audits, Where Art Thou?

Changes are afoot and we need input from all sides.

Barry Green By Barry Green
03/31/2010 -11:48 AM

I thought that might catch your attention. Actually, this will be the title and subject of the next NTCFI panel session on April 29th. I wrote a blog post a few months ago railing against the then current state of affairs in the b-to-b trade publishing industry—especially the world of having to verify circulation and audience claims to the advertising community. Of course, the linchpin of all of that has always been “THE AUDIT” (by ABC or BPA) for over 100 years.

At that time, there had already been many publications that went their merry way into “non-audit land” or “online-only land” or even sought out another little-known audit service—all to convince advertisers that they are still relevant but trying to coordinate their promotional and marketing needs with the costs involved with keeping their recipient files up-to-date and of the highest quality.  

There is so much more to say about that post but in interest of brevity (for me), the main point at the time was to suggest that ABC and BPA try to make a concerted, cooperative effort to convince the advertisers and agencies who support the publications and Web sites that the need for verification and accountability has not diminished, but rather increased. In dire times, people take shortcuts and the audit is the way to verify that there are some “gray areas” but no fraudulent activities.

Which now brings us to a recent proposal that FOLIO: and Audience Development reported on earlier this month. BPA has brought forth the suggestion that b-to-b audited publications can opt to show all the data as they have for 100 years or each can decide if it would rather not provide the “age data” of their source documents for their circulation recipients. This could lead to audit cost savings and certainly can be an enormous cost savings for the qualification and requalification of their files.

This is hard to fathom because Paragraph 3B (Age and Source of the Qualified Circulation) has always been the most scrutinized and weighty portion of audit statements (hand-in-hand with demographic quality in Paragraph 3A.)

I just want to put out there the fact that this recession from strict rules for showing data as part of the audit is happening and much debate from all sides has been initiated. The pros and cons are all over the map and I believe it would be unwise and assumptive of me to state my opinions.

But I think debates have to be presented with news coverage and really get all parties on all sides of the conundrum to voice their thoughts. We are in the midst of turmoil and what we do now will reverberate for years and years to come. (You can comment here or voice your opinions on BPA's Paragraph 3B proposals on the firm's blog.)


Related Links

AD Blog: Do ABC and BPA Need to Partner?

BPA Committees Vote to Allow Optional Reporting

Barry J. Green is president of CircExperts, a consultancy firm providing services to b-to-b publishers to reach audit/audience goals with an eye toward saving money. He has spent 40 years in the b-to-b publishing industry as a circulation auditor, a fulfillment company manager, and 25 years in circulation/audience development at Hearst Business Media.

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