America’s Audit Bureau of Circulations has given preliminary assent to reforms of the way newspapers define ‘paid circulation’, following over two years of discussion.

The thirty-two ABC board members gave the go-ahead on Saturday to a new reporting form expanding the definition of paid circulation to encompass copies sold for at least 25% of the basic price (the current benchmark is 50%).

The proposals also cover sales to hotels and airlines, where the consumer may unwittingly be buying the newspaper as part of the overall cost. The new regulations stipulate that these can only be counted as sales should the customer specifically request the paper or if it is itemised on the bill. This will reflect what incoming ABC chairman Matthew Spahn called a publication’s “degree of wantedness”.

Newspapers must also disaggregate their figures to show numbers buying at over 50% of the basic price and those between 25% and 50%.

Paid circulation is used to compare newspapers’ performances and sell ad space. ABC board member James W Hopson claimed the new proposals would “give advertisers more clarity about what they're buying,” adding, “It seems to me an entirely reasonable thing for the advertisers to ask for and a positive step for the industry”.

News source: New York Times