Jerry Wright explains the changes to regional newspaper figures

How did the recent changes to ABC's Regional Publication reporting come about and why were they introduced? ABC's chief executive Jerry Wright explains.

Jerry Wright: says the ABC's job is to do what the industry collectively wishes it to do
Jerry Wright: says the ABC's job is to do what the industry collectively wishes it to do

Last week, ABC announced changes to regional publication reporting that will enable regional publishers to combine print and digital edition figures for the first time.

The new combined figure will appear on individual Regional Publication certificates as well as the ABC Regional Publications report and the change applies to reporting periods from July 2014 onwards (so not January – June 2013).

Why was it introduced?

ABC is always looking to help bring about the introduction of new standards or improvements to current ones, to align with changes in the industry, especially the growth of new publishing platforms.

It is facilitation that is the key; ABC does not create new standards that are then "imposed" on the industry. Instead, ABC listens to its stakeholders, presents all the facts and opportunities to the industry and then cross-industry practitioners decide what would work best for them.

This process starts with the Reporting Standards Groups (RSGs). Reporting Standards Groups are made up of representatives from the whole industry, including media owners, publishers and media buyers and are organised in sectors such as Regional Publications and Business Media. 

The RSG’s role is to develop new standards to make the trading of advertising easier, more transparent and more accountable. The proposed standard is then submitted to the ABC board, which is similarly made up of senior representatives from across the industry, who agree to the new standard and keep an eye on consistency across sectors.

It is ABC’s job to do what the industry collectively wishes us to do, in this case, reporting a combined figure for print and digital editions in regional publications (with a full breakdown between print and digital copies as well).

People now use a wide variety of media to get hold of information. This means that more and more, an ABC print circulation figure alone does not represent a brand’s reach, rather only one channel of media consumption.

This is precisely why, through ABC, the industry looks for the best way to keep pace with these changes, to ensure that new media can be reported and certified to the same rigorous standards that print has been for the last 80 plus years.

Large and growing market

More than 327 titles have registered their digital editions with ABC, across all sectors. This represents a growth of 70% year on year and they are seeing significant, steady growth in circulation. 

Because a digital edition is defined for ABC purposes as a near replica of its parent print edition, both publishers and buyers in the industry felt that combining their circulations was a logical move, providing that the detail for each channel was also made clear.

It is still the same publication. With the combined figure, publishers are able to demonstrate how many copies of their title were sold, regardless of platform, and buyers can decide whether to invest in both, one or neither.

The reporting of digital editions remains optional and not all publishers are reporting them. That was the choice agreed by the industry, allowing those at the forefront to move ahead and not be held up by those moving more slowly into digital. With so many publishing options available, flexibility in reporting is one of the key factors that the industry strives for with all of the standards they propose.

What’s next?

Well, new standards are constantly being developed for review by the ABC board. ABC’s clear vision is to deliver the industry-owned "stamp of trust" based on up-to-date and industry agreed standards, and that starts with listening hard to what our members think we should do next.

Jerry Wright is chief executive of  ABC

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