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Consumer Magazines - rule changes

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This section details the changes to the UK Consumer Magazines Reporting Standards.

Issued September 2018

  • Monitored/Sample Free Distribution: Free copies packaged with other magazines or products can now be included in these categories. Examples include a free magazine within a retail multipack, a magazine inserted within another publication and a free magazine within a goodybag

  • Digital Editions: Free Digital Edition copies can now be included under Controlled Free Circulation and Membership Copies where distribution is demonstrated by the active opening of the copy. This is an alternative to the existing method of emailed notifications alerting individuals to the availability of the Digital Edition issue.

  • Paid Single Copies: For simplicity you may compare all single/retail copies against the UK Basic Cover Price for identifying the appropriate rate band. However you may opt to report other countries copies against the relevant local cover price.

Issued April 2018

  • All You Can Read Sales: Due to potential delays in establishing final copy counts of Digital Edition copies in the All You Can Read category this change means you can submit your claim using estimates of final sales/views

  • Reporting frequency: Publishers may choose to report monthly figures on an ongoing basis

Issued November 2017

  • New ABC Standards have been agreed for Consumer Magazines. The link above details significant changes in reporting and circulation requirements that will come into effect from Reporting Periods ending December 2017

  • An example certificate illustrating the new design and layout can be viewed here

Issued July 2017

  • Optional analyses: You can report, with ABC's agreement, additional information on the certificate. ABC will review the request and confirm whether the information can be reported and any associated cost.

  • Controlled Circulation: We may agree to waive the requirement for a mailing list and duplication testing against other individual circulation for copies distributed using an auditable distribution process that is operated by a third party/partner operation.

Issued November 2016

  • Digital Editions: All You Can Read Sales - A new category for Digital Edition copies where the consumer has paid and viewed a copy as part of a multi-publication offer.

  • Digital Editions: Multiple Copy Business Sales - A new category for Digital Edition copies purchased by third parties that are made available to and viewed by a consumer.

  • Multiple Copy Sales: Optional analysis - These copies are currently analysed by a standard set of consumer types i.e. Airside, Hotel, Trains etc. You may now choose to report additional detail about these copies, providing it is auditable.

  • Event Audience (Multi-Platform Certificate/Report) - You can report a simple event audience figure on a Multi-Platform Certificate/Report. The attendance figure will comprise people that have attended (whether paying or free), with them being counted once on each day they attend.

Issued July 2016

  • Social Media (Multi-Platform Certificate/Report): From periods ending June 2016 the minimum requirement for reporting Social Media is the metric count on the last working day of the Reporting Period. You may continue to report, as an option, the metric counts on the last working day of each month and the average of these for the period.

Issued May 2016

  • Print and Digital Edition bundles: If you choose to not claim any Digital Edition copies sold as part of a bundle, then you may opt to ignore the Digital Edition copy when allocating the price paid for ABC reporting purposes. Follow the link for more information.

  • Wraps: It has been agreed that a wrap can be added to an issue without any effect on ABC edition reporting (i.e. it will not be considered part of the publication) providing it meets certain conditions. Follow the link for more information.

Issued January 2016

  • Sample Free Distribution - A new category for copies that meet existing rules for Monitored Free Distribution, except for the fact that their distribution does not follow a regular and consistent pattern. Therefore one-off or irregular distributions can be claimed in this Sample Free Distribution category and will be analysed by type by issue.

    • You must obtain ABC’s agreement in advance of the distribution. Due to the increased audit time this type of distribution will incur, additional costs will be payable which will be dependent upon the extent of the job. Please contact us to discuss this.   

  • Digital Editions - you can now include live social media feeds, news and video feeds. The principle of a Digital Edition being inert once published has been removed, and editorial can be updated after publication, as long as at least 75% of the editorial from the print parent is present at any point in the Digital Edition.

  • Digital Editions - Multiple Copy Sales: You can now claim copies of a Digital Edition purchased by a third party, for which an individual has requested, and been granted, access to a single copy of an individual issue.  The copies must be purchased for at least 20% of print copy Basic Cover Price and the end recipient requesting the copy must provide their email address to demonstrate the request is from a person.

  • Editions reporting - change of format: Where different format editions are included in the circulation you will, from June 2016,  report an average percentage for each format edition based on the number of copies printed, rather than the report average circulations for each as required currently.

  • Reporting Other Countries subscription rates: If your publication has multiple Basic Annual Rates for subscriptions in Other Countries you will now report these as ‘various’ rather than a range from the lowest to the highest. This is to reduce the work in converting other currency rates to sterling and because the range quoted was subject to exchange rate fluctuations.

Issued October 2015 

  • Actively Purchased - Digital Editions: With effect from Reporting Periods ending 31st December 2015 total Actively Purchased copies will be reported for Digital Edition copies as they are for print. Note:

    • The Actively Purchased circulation analysed for each issue/month in the period will remain as the Actively Purchased print circulation.

    • If you are calculating whether you can exclude an issue because its sale is affected by reasons outside your control, you will use the combined print and Digital Edition Actively Purchased figures for the relevant issues. 

Guidance Update - August 2015

  • Retail Promotions - Guidance on discounts / cash reimbursements: Clarification of how in-store promotions that result in discounts or cash reimbursements affect the reporting of the publication for ABC purposes.

  • Retail promotions - Guidance on clarification of clear and conspicuous pricing: Clarification of what is clear and conspicuous pricing when a publication is sold in-store as part of a bundle or package with other products.

Issued June 2015

  • Gift subscriptions – Digital Edition requirements: You may only hold an email address for the recipient of a Digital Edition Gift subscription, meaning it may be difficult to identify the geographical area (UK/ROI or Other Countries) in which they should be reported. It is clarified that Gift Subscriptions will be treated as being in the same geographical location as the purchaser making the gift.

  • Issue variances - reporting: The variances for all Consumer Magazines will be reported in the same way from Reporting periods ending June 2015, i.e. we will report the actual percentage variances for any issues that vary from the average by more than 10%. You will not need to make any changes to your eReturn claims as these figures are calculated automatically by our system.

  • Excluded issues - reporting: To provide transparency and consistency between ABC sectors the circulation of any issues excluded from the average circulation will be reported separately on the certificate from the June 2015 Reporting Period. You will need to enter excluded issue circulations on your eReturn submission to enable us to report them.

Issued March 2015

  • Gift subscriptions – Digital Edition requirements: You can now claim gift subscriptions for Digital Editions. If purchased for at least 20% of Basic Annual Rate you only need the recipient’s email address instead of a postal address to claim a Digital Edition gift subscription.

  • Reporting Periods – single issue certificate option: You can now choose to have a certificate for a single issue as long as you then report the next 6 month mandatory period.

  • Multiple Copy Sales – minimum price for short-term deals: We have clarified the existing requirements for short-term multiple copy sales deals by stating the number of issues rather than the period that determines whether a deal must meet a higher minimum price to be claimed.

  • Reasons for excluding an issue: An additional reason, enabling you to apply for an exclusion, has been added. If for reasons outside your control you remove an issue from sale/distribution early you may apply for this to be excluded from the average if the circulation is significantly affected.

  • Digital Editions – society copies: From periods ending June 2015 you will be able to claim Digital Edition copies under the Society non-optional category.

  • Print only subscriptions not available: Some publishers are now not offering separate print subscriptions, meaning there is no print subscription Basic Annual Rate (BAR). If in this scenario Digital Edition subscriptions are claimed then you must instead compare the price paid against an “alternative BAR” which is 75% of the annualised print cover price.

Issued December 2014

  • Requested Sponsored Subscription Sales - new circulation category that allows copies to be claimed where an individual has requested to receive a subscription but the payment has been made by a third party (i.e. sponsor). 

Issued November 2014

  • Basic Cover Price - reporting: In cases where a publication has no sales in UK/ROI but you claim retail or single copy sales for Other Countries, you must now report a cover price on your ABC claim. This will either be a single cover price if there is only one or ‘various’ if there are two or more.

  • Editions: It is clarified that it is advertising changes of up to 30% from the Main Edition to an Edition that determines if the Edition can be reported on the same ABC certificate, not just that the number of advertisements must be within this parameter.

Issued July 2014

  • It is clarified that Digital Edition copies sold for less than 20% of the relevant print copy price can be claimed and that the reference to ‘Single Copy Sales’ covers ‘Retail and Single Copy Sales’.

  • To avoid confusion over the nature of certification of Social Media metrics (reported on the ABC Multi-Platform Certificate/Report) the rule wording has been amended to make clear that what is being reported is the Social Media Service’s provided count and testing does not involve examining how the count is compiled or the original source of the metrics included.

Issued March 2014

  • Identification of the Audit Issue: Clarification of treatment when two issues fall an equal distance from the designated date.

  • Reporting Periods: Clarification of Reporting Period options for publications newly registered with ABC.

  • ABC Byelaws: A small change to the prescribed process following the late submission of circulation claims to ABC.

Issued February 2014

  • The combined totals of print and Digital Edition circulations will be reported on ABC Certificates. [From Dec 2013 reporting period]

  • The Consumer Magazine certificate will be renamed ‘Combined Total Circulation Certificate’. [From Dec 2013 reporting period]

  • The reporting of monthly/issue by issue data will be mandatory. [From June 2014 reporting period]

  • A statement of the total average number of print and Digital Edition copies sold bundled as a package for at least 120% of the full print price (and thus reported as two copies - one print and one Digital Edition) will be shown on the certificate. [From June 2014 reporting period]

Issued August 2013

  • Monitored Free Distribution: A publication may now be distributed to distribution points by drivers/distributors that are not third party to the publisher. Please note this is subject to stipulated requirements including specific approval by ABC. 

Issued 27th June 2013

  • Free Retail Voucher Copies: A new circulation category allowing the inclusion of publications obtained free from a retailer by a consumer using a voucher obtained from another publication.

  • Digital Editions: option to compare Digital Edition prices against the local print copy price for overseas copies when deciding which rate band they will be reported in, whether minimum prices have been met and what level of information is required. 

  • Digital Editions: optional reporting of Publication Active Views (in addition to circulation) for Digital Editions on the Consumer Magazine Certificate.

  • Optional multi-platform metrics: The ability to report Event Ticket Sales and paid Digital Products (apps etc) on multi-platform reports/certificates.

Issued June 2013

  • We have undertaken a major exercise to re-write the Reporting Standards to make them easier to use.

  • After consultation with the industry the new rules have moved to a principle-based approach, allowing for more flexibility to deal with new and changing developments in circulation and verification. We have also harmonised common names and definitions across sectors.

  • Each rule is outlined by a simple definition first, underpinned by its principles and then followed by more detailed requirements. Separate guidance notes provide common examples and applications of achieving the requirements

  • As a result of this exercise some rules have changed, but most are minor changes linked to harmonising and simplifying. Click on the link above to view a document summarising the changes.

  • *Please note*: These changes apply from July 2013, therefore for reporting periods up to and including June 2013 you must use the previous Reporting standards, available in the Reporting Standards Archive.

  • Some of the main changes worth noting are:

    • Merging of the two Multiple Copy Sales categories into one.

    • Minimum subscription term is now 2 issues.

    • Treatment of subscription offers and bundles clarified

    • Re-naming of Newstrade to Retail Sales

October 2012

  • Reporting periods: Newly registered titles can opt to report on a monthly basis until the start of the next mandatory reporting period. 

June 2012

  • Digital Editions: You can now optionally report a breakdown of Digital Editions by browser, device or other identifiable and auditable metric.

  • Digital Editions - optional statement reporting those that have opted for both print and digital editions. From reporting periods ending June 2012 you can demonstrate the demand for your digital editions by optionally stating on your certificate the average number of additional digital edition copies per issue that have been requested or paid for by individuals, but which are not included in the ABC circulation figures because a print copy to those individuals has been claimed.

  • Optional Summer 2012 certificate (to allow for product offerings around the Olympics and Paralympics). We will be able to issue separate optional certificates for the summer of 2012 (between July and September 2012). This is to allow you the opportunity to report ABC audited data for publications where, for the purpose of specific Olympic/Paralympic Games related activity, either the content or delivery have been changed in a way that would ordinarily make those copies ineligible for inclusion on an ABC certificate.

March 2012

  • Social Media: You can now report a basic measure of social media audience(s) on a product’s ABC Multi-Platform Certificate. Examples of what could be reported are Facebook ‘Likes’ or Twitter ‘Followers’. This can be reported from January 2012.

December 2011

  • Digital editions - editorial content. From periods beginning January 2012 a digital edition will be able to include up to about 25% more editorial content than carried in its print parent edition (previously 5%)

  • Digital editions - information captured. From reporting periods beginning January 2012 the threshold above which publishers do not need to obtain the digital edition purchasers’ details is changed from 50% to 20% of Basic Cover Price/Basic Annual Subscription Rate. Note: copies above this price point still need to be proven to payment.

  • Digital editions - From reporting periods ending December 2011 digital edition copies will be reported in one place on the certificate alongside print copies (but not combined).

  • Digital Editions – free requested copies. The current requirements for telephone, internet and email requests are based on the completion of a form and the capturing of the individual’s answer to the ABC Personal Identifier Question. For requests made from January 2012 publishers may, with the prior approval of ABC, be able to take advantage of alternative solutions for capturing and proving that an individual has requested a digital edition copy of the publication.

November 2011

  • Digital Editions:   From audit periods ending December 2011 paid digital edition copies will be analysed by comparing the price paid with the UK print copy Basic Cover Price (single copy sales) and UK print copy Basic Annual Rate (subscriptions).

  • Issues to be reported: A flowchart has been added to the rules which should be used to determine whether issues should be reported or not.  Click on the above link to view the flowchart.

August 2011

  • Monitored Free Distribution:   From audit periods ending January 2012 the breakout of distribution points will include two new categories – Food and drink outlets, and Other travel points. The category for trains will be removed.

  • Monitored Free Distribution: With effect from September 2011 changes have been made to clarify the information and requirements that are expected for Monitored Free Distribution. These include the right for ABC to visit or call distribution points to verify the distribution process, changes to the information on the Master Distribution list of distribution points and the assessment of management controls covering the distribution process as part of the audit. ABC will agree and work with publishers to ensure these are achieved.  

June 2011

  • Newstrade multipacks: For issues distributed on or after 1st July 2011 the rules relating to multipacks have been amended where only one publication in the pack is included in an ABC claim.  


If you require information on any earlier changes please contact us.