Coronavirus – Temporary Standards changes and FAQs

Following the lockdown restrictions imposed in the UK in March 2020 we made a number of temporary variations to our Reporting Standards to assist publishers in continuing to report the unexpected and rapid changes made to their publications and circulations.

Details of the changes and the current position are set out below by sector.

If you have any questions regarding these changes or any matter relating to ABC reporting please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Business Magazines Consumer Magazines Newspapers FAQ's 

Business Magazine Changes

Update – April 2021

The ending of the temporary variations to Business Magazine Reporting Standards, and therefore reversion to ‘normal’ Standards, has been agreed as follows:

From periods ending July 2021 onwards

  • Analysed Audit Issue: You can no longer choose any issue in the reporting period

    (i.e. the Audit Issue is the issue distributed nearest to the first day of the last month in the Reporting Period).

  • You can no longer report a publisher statement about the changes/effects of COVID on issues/circulation.
From issues distributed July 2021 onwards
  • New requests to receive free digital copies: We will no longer review evidence if not fully compliant.
  • Dropped or consolidated editions: These will no longer be reported via a statement on the certificate.
  • Monitored Free Distribution: You must notify us of changes as per the normal requirements.
  • Free Letterbox Delivery: This category is no longer available.
From periods ending January 2022 onwards
  • Controlled Circulation: The one-year extension of the 5-year age limit for controlled requests and sources is no longer available.
From issues distributed January 2022 onwards
  • Non-Controlled Circulation: You can no longer claim digital copies in this category (note: under the variation this was only to substitute or replace print copies not fulfilled).

View 'Normal' Business Magazine Reporting Standards

For information - Archive Coronavirus standards announcements:

Temporary changes - Business Magazines 15/04/2020

Temporary changes - Exclusions and COVID-19 certificates 27/03/2020

Temporary changes - all sectors 25/03/2020


Consumer Magazine Changes

We have reverted to all normal standards and reporting from January 2021.

For information, the temporary standards variations for Consumer Magazines ceased and reverted to 'normal' as follows:

  • Issues distributed post lockdown in March up to the end of September 2020 could be reported on a separate COVID-19 certificate. Therefore issues distributed pre-lockdown in March 2020 and from October 2020 onwards will be included in trend reporting on the relevant ‘normal’ certificate.

  • The temporary variations to the standards were available up to and including periods ending 31st December 2020.

View 'Normal' Consumer Magazine Reporting Standards

For information - Archive Coronavirus standards announcements:

Temporary changes - Consumer Magazines 15/04/2020

Temporary changes - Exclusions and COVID-19 certificates 27/03/2020

Temporary changes - all sectors 25/03/2020


Newspaper Changes

We have reverted to all normal standards and reporting for all newspaper sectors.

For information, the temporary standards variations for newspapers ceased and reverted to 'normal' as follows:

  • Monthly reporting newsbrands from the August 2020 data, issued in September 2020.
  • For all other Regional Publications, from Monday 3rd August, with COVID reporting available for issues up until this date. 
  • The reporting of the Monday to Friday daily indices will return from the January to June 2021 period.

View 'Normal' Reporting Standards

For information - Archive Coronavirus standards announcements:

Temporary changes - Exclusions and COVID-19 certificates 27/03/2020

Temporary changes - all sectors 25/03/2020


Frequently Asked Questions

Publication format and Issues  How Copies are Circulated  Submitting Data to ABC  Buyers

 

Note: The FAQs were prepared when all sectors had temporary variations in force, but we have edited these now for information only. Please refer to your sector’s updates above to identify if these temporary changes are still available or when they ceased.

Changes to publication formats and issues

Q. What are the ABC implications if I don’t publish a planned issue or merge two issues?

[Now only available for Business magazines] You will add a note explaining the change on your next ABC certificate. Your ABC average circulation per issue is based on published issues, so you will exclude dropped issues when calculating your average calculation. 

Changes to how copies are circulated

Q. If I send a copy to an individual’s home and office address can they both count?

No. You can send two copies if you wish, but will still need to remove duplicates to the same individual and claim just one.

Q. What if I’m unable to carry out telemarketing campaigns to re-verify my free copies?

[Now only available for Business magazines] To avoid you unexpectedly losing copies from your controlled or requested figures, we have extended both the oldest age band for controlled requested copies and the age limit for supporting sources by one year. Please look at our update on temporary standards changes for more details.

Q. If I extend a consumer’s subscription period because issues can’t be delivered will copies in the extended period still count?

There are a number of ways you might address changes in the supply of copies and you will want to be clear with your subscribers about their entitlement. Providing it’s clear that under any changes the copies are still covered by the subscription and paid for, you may claim the copies as paid subscriptions. 

Compiling and submitting circulation claims

Q. Is there any change to when I should I submit my circulation returns?

We appreciate every organisation will be operating differently to a greater or lesser degree and this is challenge. We have not made any changes to our timetable for submitting circulation returns and publishing reports, therefore please work to the normal schedule. Of course if you have any difficulties, for example due to availability of staff, please get in touch with us.

Q. Can I exclude issues from my average circulation because of the Coronavirus restrictions?

We've now reverted to the normal rules for excluding issues from a publication's average circulation. 

Q. What is a COVID-19 certificate?

[These were only available during 2020]. For reference, this is a special stand-alone certificate to report circulation for issues affected by the restrictions separately from ‘business as usual’. This is so that publications’ circulations during the exceptional period are transparent and the longer-term trends outside the affected period are not distorted.

Q. How will buyers know what changes I’ve made to my circulation during the COVID period?

[Now only available for Business magazines] You may include statements on your certificate covering changes you have made, such as dropping or merging issues. You may also include a statement describing significant changes in circulation strategy as a result of the pandemic.

Q. What can I say in the statement about my circulation for this period?
[Now only available for Business magazines] In the interests of transparency you can include a statement on your certificate explaining significant changes in your circulation strategy or your publication as a result of the pandemic.

This is your opportunity to provide a narrative of changes you have made alongside the figures. A statement may be included on both normal and COVID-19 certificates.

The statement:

  • Should be limited to your circulation and your publication (e.g. 'We reduced our print run due to the closure of a number of outlets and increased digital copy circulation').
  • Should not include comparisons with other products or the market (e.g. can’t say “As the No.1 women’s magazine…”).
  • Should not reference other unaudited data related to the product (e.g. can’t say “50,000 readers visited our website in one week”).

We aim to be accommodating and understanding of the wording you use but reserve the right to amend if we feel they are inappropriate.

Q. When will the temporary changes to ABC standards cease to be available?

Business Magazines is the only sector where temporary variations to the Standards remain. See above for details. 

Q. If I opt to report affected issues on a COVID-19 certificate, how do I treat estimates for retail sales?

The purpose of the COVID-19 certificate was to report circulation for issues affected by the restrictions separately from ‘business as usual’. This is so that a publication’s circulation during the exceptional period is transparent and the longer-term trends outside the affected period are not unduly distorted.

Therefore you must keep estimated sales and related adjustments for normal (i.e. non-COVID-19) certificates separate from COVID-19 certificates, and apply estimates (and any adjustments) in relation to issues reported on COVID-19 certificates only on COVID-19 certificates.

The following illustrate how you should treat estimated sales:

  1. You will adjust for differences between estimated and actual sales for the period ending December 2019 against the average circulation reported on the subsequent normal (i.e. non COVID-19) certificate. This could either be for the period Jan - June 2020 or Jan - Dec 2020, depending on your chosen reporting frequency.

  2. If you don’t know the final sales for issues on a COVID-19 certificate, you must make an estimate. If the estimates turn out to be incorrect, the treatment is as follows:

    1. If there is no subsequent COVID-19 certificate, you would not make an adjustment for the difference between the estimated and actual sales. We will check the difference at audit and, if it would have a significant effect on the average circulation, update the certificate to reflect the actual figures.

    2. If you publish a second COVID-19 certificate (for a subsequent period, assuming restrictions are continuing to affect publications), you will adjust for the difference between the estimated and actual average sale on that second COVID-19 certificate. For example: You report a COVID-19 certificate for affected issues during the period Jan - June 2020 and another COVID-19 certificate covering affected issues falling in the July – Dec 2020 period. Any under or overstatement of the average sale arising due to the estimate for the issues on the Jan-June COVID-19 certificate, would be adjusted against the average circulation for the July – Dec 2020 COVID-19 certificate.

  3. You will adjust for differences between estimated and actual sales for issues on a normal (non-COVID-19) certificate for the period ending June 2020 as usual - against the average circulation on the subsequent normal (i.e. non-COVID-19) certificate for the period July to December 2020.

You can find more information and worked examples of estimated retail sales and adjustments in the relevant guidance sections of the Reporting Standards for Retail Sales.

Q. How will you carry out audits while social-distancing measures are in place?

To maintain social distancing we’ve been completing all audits 100% remotely since the start of lockdown. This will continue for the foreseeable future.

Auit planning & closing meetings will be completed by video call wherever possible and we have a range of options for you to share documents electronically, being mindful of the need to maintain data security.  

 

Buyers

Q. Will circulation data be reported as normal for the period affected by coronavirus?

Only available during 2020, we introduced a temporary COVID-19 certificate for reporting circulations.

  • This is a special stand-alone certificate to report circulation for issues affected by the restrictions separately from ‘business as usual’.

  • This is so that publications’ circulations during the exceptional period are transparent and the longer-term trends outside the affected period are not distorted.

  • The COVID-19 certificate will in most cases be published alongside a normal certificate which will include the issues reported as normal. However newsbrands that report monthly followed COVID-19 reporting by default from the April to July 2020 reporting period.

Q. What is a COVID-19 certificate?

Only available during 2020, this is a special stand-alone certificate to report circulation for issues affected by the restrictions separately from ‘business as usual’. This is so that publications’ circulations during the exceptional period are transparent and the longer-term trends outside the affected period are not distorted.

Q. Where can I find the COVID-19 certificates?

The COVID-19 certificates were published on the indvidual publications' pages on our website. You can find these by using the search box on our website, right clicking the title in our Data Hub or via a link on the publication's normal certificate or searching for the publication.

The data is not included in our Data Hub or published reports because it's not considered comparable to previous periods.

Q. Have your circulation requirements changed as a result of coronavirus?

As well as the COVID-19 certificates we made a number of temporary changes to our standards.

These changes were to provide flexibility for our members, who were faced with a sudden need to adapt their products and methods of distribution in order to continuing to reach their audience as the country locked down.

You can find details of the changes under the relevant publication sector above.

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