Consumer Magazines

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Digital Copies

Digital Copies are copies of a publication published electronically as a unit.

Eligibility and options for reporting

  1. Digital Copies can be reported on a Consumer Magazine certificate providing they meet the relevant circulation and other requirements detailed in these Standards.

  2. How the digital copies may be claimed will depend on whether print copies are also claimed and, if they are, whether the digital copies meet the requirements to be classified as an of the print publication. The scenarios are:

    1. The magazine is only published in digital format – the Digital Copies will be reported on their own certificate.

    2. The magazine is published in both print and digital formats (either for all issues or a mix where some issues are either print or digital only):

      1. You may:

        • Claim the print and digital copies on the same certificate, providing the digital copies meet the requirements to be classified as a Digital of the print publication.

        • Choose to claim the print and digital copies on separate certificates, even though the digital copies meet the requirements to be classified as a Digital of the print publication.

          If the digital copies cannot be classified as a Digital of the print publication you can register the digital magazine as a separate product and report the print and digital copies on separate certificates.

    3. Definition of a Digital

  3. To qualify as a Digital , that must be sufficiently similar as to be considered the same product as the print Parent . In particular:

    1. A Digital must be identified as an of a publication reported on the ABC Certificate (the Parent ). This means it must carry a logotype/masthead incorporating the generic name of the Parent and be consistent with the general appearance of the Parent .

    2. A Digital is published electronically as a unit.

    3. It may be reformatted to suit the different delivery medium. For example: changes in page size or order.

    4. Editorial or advertising may include electronic enhancements or be adapted to take advantage of the medium. For example: pictures replaced with video. 

    5. Compared to the print parent , you can change editorial content, providing at any point in time:

      1. A minimum of about 75% of the editorial in the print parent is present in the Digital .

      2. Additional editorial, not in the print , can be added to the digital , up to about 25% of the total editorial by volume in the print .

        You must declare editorial changes when submitting your claim to ABC and be able to demonstrate they fall within the permitted parameters.

    6. A Digital may include live social media feeds, news feeds and/or video feeds. These will be ignored in relation to the editorial change requirements.

    7. A digital must carry all of the ROP (not classified) advertisements (by number and advertisers) that appear in the parent unless agreed otherwise with the advertiser/agency. 

    8. You can sell advertisements for inclusion in the digital only. 

    9. If editorial or advertising renders the digital illegal for publication the specific advertising/editorial may be removed. In this instance you can ignore the relevant editorial/advertising from your calculations of changes.

    10. Digital s and their parent must be published on or about a common distribution date.

      Note: In cases where individual issues do not have a Parent (being only published in one format/ only), then requirements 3e, 3g and 3j above do not apply. 


1. Prior notification of Digital Copy claims and plans are required

2. Digital Copies are opted in

3. Digital Copies are published and available to the consumer

4. Digital Copies must meet requirements of the relevant circulation category except where varied by this section

5. Reported by rate, comparing price paid with the print copy price 

6. Optional metrics/breakdowns can be reported


1. Prior notification of Digital Copy claims and plans are required
  1.  Digital Copy claims must be audited by ABC Staff Auditors.

  2.  You must register your intention to claim in advance of the publication of the issues as part of the audit is carried out during the reporting period. 

  3. You must provide planned distribution dates in advance and notify us of any changes.
2. Digital Copies are opted in
  1. The individual must have either specifically purchased the Digital Copy, or requested to receive/view it (this maybe demonstrated by active opening – see section 4c(ii) below).

  2. Free Digital Copies do not need a specific request if they are claimed as Membership Copies.

3. Digital Copies are published and available to the consumer
  1. You must provide ABC with free access to the Digital Copies.
4. Digital Copies must meet requirements of the relevant circulation category except where varied by this section 
  1. Digital Copies can be claimed only for specified circulation categories. 

  2. In relation to all paid categories you must be able to demonstrate the copy has been sold and at what price.

  3. If the end recipient receives the Digital Copy free (typically in the categories Multiple Copy Subscription Sales, Controlled Free Circulation - individually requested, Free Requested Delivered and Membership Copies), you need to comply with either proof of notification or proof of active opening:

    1. Proof of Notification

      • You must capture the recipient's name and email address. 

      • You can only claim one Digital Copy per individual.

      • You cannot claim the copy if you have provided a paid or free print copy to the same individual (where known). 

      • You must send an email alert to the individual informing them that the issue is available for view/download. 

      • You must exclude copies where the email alert generates a Hard Bounceback measured at least 24 hours after the email was sent. A Hard Bounceback is where an NDN (Non-Delivery-Notice) such as an SMTP 550 error or other hard bounceback error message is received. 

      • You must be able to provide evidence of the emails sent and Hard Bouncebacks received.

      • Recipients may be contacted as part of the audit process.

    2. Proof of Active Opening:

      • Evidence of delivery to identifiable individuals must be demonstrated by the measurement of active openings of the copy

      • The delivery process/database must have a mechanism to minimise the risk of significant duplicates to the same individual within the distribution method

      • The auditor must have access to verify the claim in relation to the delivery process/database and measurement of active openings

  4. For Multiple Copy Subscription Sales:

    1. The claimed quantity must be restricted to those individuals that have personally opted to receive/view the Digital Copy. For example: A company takes out a subscription for 100 of its customers. If only 40 of these personally register to receive/view the Digital Copy then only those 40 copies may be included on the ABC Certificate.

  5. Gift subscriptions, where the recipient receives a subscription as a gift from a paying subscriber (up to a maximum of 12 gift subscriptions per subscriber), can be claimed as Digital Copy Single Copy Subscription Sales as follows:

    1. The recipient’s email address must be provided.

    2. The recipient is deemed (for ABC purposes) as having paid for the subscription.

    3. The recipient's geographical location for reporting purposes will be treated as being the same as that of the purchaser making the gift.

  6. You must retain and supply us on an issue by issue basis (or as otherwise agreed) a list of individual recipients for each issue (the ‘Total Distribution List’ (TDL)) which includes details of all the recipients of individually distributed print copies and all free Digital Copies (whether reported on one or two certificates and excluding those for which details are not known and supported by proof of active opening). We must be able to identify the circulation category/type each copy is claimed in. As referred to above, this list should exclude:

    1. Duplicate records (i.e. each individual on the list can only be claimed once - the print copy takes precedence).

    2. Individuals where Hard Bouncebacks have arisen from email notifications for free Digital Copies.

  7. You must supply us the claim for Digital Copies on an issue by issue basis (or as otherwise agreed). 

Guidance Available

5. Reported by rate, comparing price paid with the print copy price

Claiming by rate

  1. If you are also claiming print copies, Paid Digital Copies must be claimed in the appropriate rate band by comparing the price paid with the relevant print copy Basic Cover Price (single copy sales) and the relevant print copy Basic Annual Rate (subscriptions) - whether reported on one or two certificates. For example the BAR for a print subscription is £200. Its Digital Copy is marketed for a subscription rate of £80. For rate band reporting purposes an £80 subscription to the Digital Copy must be reported according to 80/200 = 40%. Note:

    1. Relevant price means the UK print price unless you opt to use the relevant local print price for copies outside the UK or the alternative BAR (see Single Copy Subscriptions section 6f).

    2. You can ignore the value (or perceived value) of any gifts, or other incentives (including bundled publications or media products that are not claimed for ABC purposes). However cash reimbursements to the consumer must be taken into account (excluding limited low chance lottery style promotions).

  2. In the case of a digital only publication copies must be claimed in the appropriate rate band as defined by the Digital Copy Basic Cover Price (single copy sales) and the relevant Digital Copy Basic Annual Rate (subscriptions).
    1. Allocating bundle prices

  3. If a subscription promotion includes a gift or product that is being claimed for ABC purposes (for example a bundled copy of a publication or access to a paid website) then the price paid must be allocated according to the following, moving down the list until one can be applied:

    1. According to the specific terms of the offer.

    2. Where specific terms are not clear, by pro-rating the price according to the relative prices of the ABC claimed products.

    3. Where the specific terms are not clear and in the absence of a means of pro-rating the price paid, it should be divided equally between the number of ABC claimed products included in the sale.

    4. Claiming a print and Digital Copy

  4. If a publication’s Digital Copy is sold bundled as a package with the print copy (whether for a single issue or a subscription) then the treatment is as follows: 

    1. Reporting on a single certificate: You can only claim one of these copies per issue to be included in the average circulation. You may choose whether to claim either the print or the Digital Copy but you must adopt the same policy for all copies in the Reporting Period.

    2. Reporting on separate certificates:
      • You may claim both copies in the bundle, by claiming the publication’s print copies on one certificate and Digital Copies on a separate certificate. If you do this:

        • Both certificates must carry the statement regarding bundled copies (see reporting below).

        • You may aggregate the print and digital copies on a Brand Report.

6. Optional metrics/breakdowns can be reported 
  1. You may make a statement on the Certificate of the average number of additional Digital Copies per issue that have been paid for or requested free (where applicable) by individuals, but which are not included in the ABC claim because a print copy to those individuals has been claimed.  Note: Only one additional Digital Copy per issue per individual can be included in the statement.

  2. You may report a breakdown of Digital Copies by browser, device or other identifiable and auditable metric.

  3. You may report, in addition to circulation, Publication Active Views for Digital Copies. The definition and requirements for Publication Active View are detailed in the ABC Digital Publication Reporting Standards. The definition is reproduced below for your convenience:

Publication Active View:

1. Definition: A single copy of a publication actively opened by a device for viewing.

2. Principles:

a. A minimum of one page of an issue (or a day) opened/served on/to a device.

b. Distinct action/event by the end user to view.

Note: a single action/request which results in both the content being downloaded/made available and the automatic opening of a page of the publication is not considered a distinct action/event. A further distinct action would be required such as opening a second page.

c. The view request must be on an issue by issue (or daily) basis.


You will report total average Digital Copies as follows, which will be broken out on the ABC Certificate: 

1. By geographical type:

  1. United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland

  2. Other Countries

2. By circulation type:

  1. As for print copies, in the same rate bands:

    1. Paid Single Copies (Retail and Single copy sales)

    2. Paid Subscriptions (Single Copy Subscription Sales)

    3. Paid Subscriptions (Multiple Copy Subscription Sales)

    4. Paid Subscriptions (Requested Sponsored Subscription Sales)

    5. Membership Copies  

    6. Free Copies (Controlled Free Circulation – individually requested only)

    7. Free Requested Delivered Copies

  1. Digital Copy specific:

    1. All You Can Read Sales

    2. Paid Multiple Copies (Multiple Copy Business Sales)

3. A statement of the total average number of print and Digital Copies sold bundled as a package (whether for a single issue or a subscription) where both the print and Digital Copy have been claimed on separate certificates. 


G4. Digital Copies must meet requirements of the relevant circulation category except where varied by this section 
  1. Typically to provide evidence of the email alerts to individuals informing them that the issue is available for view/download you will provide system generated proof (such as a notification log of the email alerts sent). This system generated proof would normally need to include evidence of what has been distributed, when and to whom, such as:

    1. Date sent
    2. Time sent
    3. Name of publication
    4. Issue identifier
    5. Email address
    6. Size of file delivered
    7. Addressee identifier
  2. Our testing of email alerts may involve email ‘writebacks’ to individuals on an on-going basis during the reporting period which is why we will ask for information throughout.

  3. Single copy retail sales of Digital Copies via a third party retailer (for example Apple Newsstand, Google, Amazon etc) will be reported in the category Retail Sales (Sale or Return). Single copy sales of Digital Copies direct to a consumer by the publisher will be claimed in the category Single Copy Sales.  However copies sold as part of a multi-title package where access to a wide range of different digital copies is available to the consumer must be claimed in the All You Can Read category providing the requirements of that category are met.

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