Thanks! Your message has been sent.

Please log in

Please enter your login details

Log in

Not got a login? Sign up here

Audit information

Please see below an FAQ on our audit practices. If you can't find what you are looking for or if something is not clear then please contact us at abcpost@abc.org.uk or call us on +44 (1442) 870 800.

What is an audit?

  • An audit is an independent verification of a claim made for data relating to circulation, attendance or digital media activity.

Who decides the rules?

  • ABC is governed by a Board of permanent and nominated representatives from media owners, media buyers, advertisers and industry trade bodies. The rules governing what ABC measures and reports are called Reporting Standards (sometimes referred to as ‘audit rules’). Changes to these rules are discussed and agreed, usually through consensus, by the relevant Reporting Standards Group, in line with the needs of the industry. ABC management’s role is to facilitate and implement the results of these discussions, acting as the Secretariat of the Reporting Standards Groups; it is not to make the rules or take decisions about what is or is not allowed. (N.B. While the constitution of JICWEBS, the body that sets the standards for digital media, is somewhat different, the basic principles of its operation are the same.)

Who undertakes the audit?

  • The majority of audits are completed by our auditors. This is mandatory for the following sectors;

    • Business publications
    • Exhibitions
    • ABC Bulk Distribution
    • International publications (outside the UK or the Republic of Ireland)
    • Digital media

    Consumer magazines and newspapers may choose to use either our auditors or other ABC approved third party auditors.

What is an inspection?

  • If audits are carried out by third party auditors, our auditors will inspect these titles at random to ensure that claims have been made in accordance with the Reporting Standards.

How do I appoint an ABC auditor?

  • If you are in one of the mandatory categories above, the appointment of an auditor is automatic. If you are not in a mandatory sector and wish to use our expertise then please contact comms@abc.org.uk.

How do I appoint a third party auditor?

  • When using an external auditor, return forms must be filed with ABC by an approved auditor who must be a registered auditor and a member of either The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI) or Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

    The standard letter of engagement, as agreed with the ICAEW, must be completed between the member, their auditor and ABC. This standard has been issued by ICAEW as Audit 01/04 and is available on their website. This should be filed with ABC prior to the commencement of the audit.

What exactly will be audited?

  • What will be audited depends on the Reporting Standards for that sector, what is being claimed and what you wish to have certified.

    For circulation audits we are proving print distribution and qualification to the relevant circulation categories on a certificate. We recommend having clearly set out issue by issue work papers supporting your claim. In addition you should ensure that you have the relevant third party proof that demonstrates the figures have been achieved in compliance with the Reporting Standards.

    For attendance audits we require proof of attendance at the exhibition, generated either by ticket sales or attendance lists which we validate back to the attendees claimed. In addition you need to have the relevant supporting documentation as specified by the Reporting Standards.

    For digital media audits we recommend that you check that the configuration of any web analytics tools are up to date and compliant with the industry-agreed standard. You must also be able to make available all the supporting data used to generate your claim.

What steps do I need to take to ensure that my publication is ready for an ABC audit?

  • We suggest you speak to an account manager; who will be able to guide you through the process and provide you with the necessary assistance. Call them on +44 (1442) 870 800 or comms@abc.org.uk.

What happens if there is a problem with my audit?

  • Any issues arising will be discussed with you by your auditor who will explain the implications. If we find errors in your claim or the supporting documentation, we will amend the certificate and reissue it if necessary.

When will my certificate be issued?

  • If you are audited by us, your first audit will be completed before the certificate is released to ensure that all data has been correctly prepared in accordance with the Reporting Standards. Thereafter the certificate is normally released after your claim has been processed by us. The audit will be then completed after the certificate has been issued. If you are audited by a third party auditor, the certificate is always released after the audit has been completed.

How often do I need to audit?

  • All print titles in ABC membership have to be audited at least once a year. National newspapers are audited monthly. ABC Bulk Distribution can be audited monthly or six monthly. Regional publications, Business magazines and Consumer magazines are audited six monthly or annually.  

    Digital media audits currently have no set minimum frequency although JICWEBS recommends at least twice per annum.

How much will an audit cost?

  • Audit costs depend on the frequency of certification and the scope of the audit. Please contact us for more details or view our current fee sheets.

Can I take an audit 'break'?

  • No. Continuous reporting is a requirement of ABC membership. This means that once a certificate has been issued, every subsequent issue must be audited and returns submitted to us for all audit periods.

Can an issue be excluded from a circulation audit?

  • An issue may be excluded as long as there a good reason why production or supply has been affected for that issue for reasons beyond the control of the publisher. All exclusions must be submitted to us in writing and we must agree the reason in advance of the audit. Excluded issues are clearly shown on the certificate.

Can days be excluded from a digital media audit?

  • No. Please note that the industry agreed standard does not allow the use of extrapolation for missing data.

How are free newspapers audited?

  • Publications which are distributed in bulk and are free to the reader are called ABC Bulk Distribution/free pick up. Examples include Metro, London Lite and thelondonpaper. Publications must follow a regular distribution pattern with appropriate distribution points. Adequate proof of distribution and receipt must be maintained and made available for audit. A feature of this type of audit is ‘reality testing’. Periodic testing of actual distribution will take place throughout the audit period.

    Free copies can also be distributed door to door – formerly known as VFD, now known as Regional Publications Letterbox. Round records must be maintained and detailed confirmation of distribution, known as “back-checking” must be carried out.

What is an ABC web traffic audit?

  • An ABC web audit verifies activity for a calendar month or over a 6 monthly period. Supporting data (log files), site filtering rules and a claim form is sent to us in order to verify the claim made. The log files need to be filtered so that any invalid traffic is excluded. Invalid traffic includes non-human actvity e.g. robots and spiders which crawl the web in order to build search engine indexes and internal usage. Only valid web usage which complies with industry agreed standards is counted for certification.

How do I count my traffic to make my claim?

  • There are basically 3 options:
    • The media owner can filter their log files in-house and send it to us to be audited.
    • The media owner can send their entire unfiltered raw log files to us to filter it before continuing with the audit process (an additional counting fee applies).
    • The media owner can use an ABC 2 star accredited Web Traffic Analytics Tool (ABC Associate) to filter the data.

What is an ABC 2 star accredited Associate company?

  • These are third party tools which are accredited by ABC to ensure that they are capable of providing auditable data which complies with the industry agreed reporting standards.

How do these ABC 2 star accredited tools work?

  • They usually work by way of the media owner placing a tag (code/javascript/GIF image) in the source code of the pages of the site. When any tagged page of the site is then rendered by a users browser this generates a record that is captured. At the end of the audited month the page tag data is sent to ABC and audited to confirm the claim provided by the client.

What gets checked in a web traffic audit?

  • We check that the supporting data (filtered log files or page tag data) is genuine and tests are run to ensure that all invalid activity, including any suspicious activity, has not been counted. We 'seed' the web property during the audit month so that it can detect and hence confirm its own activity in the clients supporting data. This is done to authenticate the data and to ensure it has not been manipulated. The client also provides us with their filtering rules, which confirms invalid activity that has been removed e.g. activity from internal IP addresses, invalid URLs etc. and we check that this activity has been excluded.

What happens once the web traffic audit is done?

  • Once the auditor is satisfied that the data supports the claim and complies with the industry-agreed standards the audit is passed. The media owner is then issued with a certificate. If the media owner chooses to publish the certificate they will also receive an ABC logo which they can display on their site and use in appropriate literature which shows that they have been certified.