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Rule Updates

The Reporting Standards Group (RSG) members below have been approved by the ABC Board and represent the wider membership in the development of the Reporting Standards. As an ABC member, if you have any issue or request about these standards, you can contact us or any of the RSG members below. 

  • The News Media Association, Jeff Almond, Media Facilities Executive
  • Amplifi, Scott Barnard, Account Manager
  • Johnston Press plc, Tina Callcutt
  • JICREG, Keith Donaldson, Chief Executive
  • Wavemaker, Fiona Hodges, Regional Director
  • Trinity Mirror, Alison Jarvis, Newspaper Sales Shared Manager
  • Kent Messenger Ltd, Fiona Maddison, Newspaper Sales & Distribution Manager
  • Archant Norfolk, Darron McLoughlin (Chair), Audience Development Director
  • Newsquest, Marie Rushall, Regional Newspaper Sales Manager

Latest Changes

Issued December 2017
  • Excluded issues - Christmas (Daily titles only): The following has been added in relation to optional exclusions for the Christmas/New Year period: "If the fall of days renders these dates inappropriate ABC reserves the right to amend the dates for any particular year". It has been agreed that for 2017 publishers may opt to exclude issues published on Friday 22nd December from the average circulation. The issue's circulation must be reported separately on the certificate in line with existing requirements.

Issued July 2017 (effective from December 2017 period) 
  • New ABC Standards have been agreed for Regional Publications. The link above details significant changes in reporting and circulation requirements that will come into effect from Reporting Periods ending December 2017.
Issued April 2017
  • Excluded issues: The ability to exclude an issue of a paid for publication from the average circulation due to a local bank holiday has been amended to those issues where sales are affected by a local public holiday, evidenced either by publication on an official local authority website or by virtue of a long-standing custom/tradition previously recognised by ABC.

Issued December 2016
  • Sample Free Distribution: The current detailed analysis by each issue is now optional. As a minimum you must now report the number of issues for which Sample Free Distribution is claimed together with an overview description.

  • 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
  • Optional reporting periods - to provide greater flexibility you may now report optional reporting periods based on weeks (minimum of four)

  • 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 January 2016
  • 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.

  • Sample Free Distribution - in line with Free Pick Up Copies, from periods ending January 2016 Sample Free Distribution using the Free Letterbox Delivery method must be carried out within 24 hours of the majority of the rest of the distribution.

  • Sample Free Distribution - for clarity, rather than cross-reference the relevant free distribution categories we have added what will be reported to the Sample Free Distribution section of the Standards.

  • Free Letterbox Delivery (including multiple residential) - it is clarified that back issues cannot be claimed under these categories.

Issued October 2015
  • Digital Edition copies - 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.

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
  • Sample Free Distribution - new category available from July 2015: This new category will allow you to claim copies that meet the existing rules for Free Pick Up, Free Letterbox Delivery or Free Requested Delivered Copies, except for the fact that their distribution does not follow a regular and consistent pattern. Therefore one-off or irregular distributions can be claimed under this Sample Free Distribution category and will be analysed by type by issue. You must obtain ABC’s agreement in advance of the distribution as it may entail auditing in real time. Claiming this type of distribution will incur additional cost.

  • Multiple Copy Subscriptions - new category available from July 2015: This new category, which is already used in ABC magazine categories, will allow you to claim subscriptions purchased by a third party but with delivery intended to be for the same recipients over the term of the subscription.

  • 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. It is clarified that these Gift Subscriptions will be treated as being in the same geographical location as the purchaser making the gift.

  • 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.

  • Free Pick Up Copies - reporting: The information on when Free Pick Up Copies are distributed will now be reported separately from the Method of Distribution Statement (which will show where and how copies are distributed). This is called the normal distribution schedule and will mean the information is shown in the same format as other ABC sectors.

Issued March 2015
  • Reasons to exclude an issue: An additional reason, enabling you to apply for an exclusion, has been added. If, for reasons outside of 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.

  • Free Pick Up Copies - reporting of variances: Where you start or stop claiming Free Pick Up Copies, we will no longer list on the subsequent certificate all the issues with a significant variance.

  • Free Distribution Cycles: The ability to report different distribution cycles cross different free distribution categories has been limited to either every issue or common with each other.

Issued January 2015
  • Changes to Free Distribution mix: If publications reporting on a 12 month frequency make a significant change in their free distribution strategy (for example switching a significant element of their circulation from Free Letterbox Delivery to Free Pick Up) then they will be required to report on a 6 monthly basis for that year. See rule for more details of what constitutes a significant change.

  • Free Distribution Cycles (rotational distribution): Publishers reporting Free Letterbox Delivery or Free Pick Up may now choose to distribute to different areas/locations on different issues as part of a regular and consistent cycle rather than to the same areas/locations for each issue. For example: rather than delivering to area A each week, you could deliver on a 2 weekly cycle - to area A on odd weeks and area B on even weeks. The number of copies delivered must remain broadly the same across distribution cycles for titles published weekly or less frequently than weekly. Breakdowns for postcodes/Distribution Point types will be reported for each cycle. 

Issued November 2014
  • Reported Data: The standards have been amended to correct an inconsistency between what was stated and what has been practice for many years. Click on the link above for more details.

Issued 31st July 2014
  • From reporting periods ending June 2014 onwards you may, as an option, analyse by postcode sector copies reported in the category Free Letterbox Delivery – Multiple Residential Units. 

Issued July 2014

From reporting periods ending July 2014 onwards:

  • The combined total of print and Digital Edition circulations will be reported on ABC Certificates. This will be appended with the word ‘gross’ to highlight that the number is not de-duplicated.

  • The Regional Publication certificate will be renamed ‘Combined Total Circulation Certificate’.

  • 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.

  • A Publication Active View table will be included on the certificate, though for now they remain as an optional metric only. The table will remain even if none are reported. 

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.

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

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

Issued August 2013
  • Reporting editorial content percentage (predominantly free publications): The reference to editorial content being identified to the nearest half page has been removed to avoid possible confusion that this means identifying each page on this basis.  

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:

    1. Change of definition for Free Letterbox Delivery, which removes the need for mandatory back-checking.

    2.  An option to report 12 monthly, January to December, instead of 6 monthly (applicable from January to December 2013). 

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

    4. Re-naming of some categories: Newstrade to Retail Sales: Non-Postal Subscriptions to Voucher Subscription Sales: In-House Controlled Direct Delivery to Publisher Controlled Direct Delivery.

 Issued February 2013
  • Group Certificates can comprise publications that have different owners.

  • New category to allow the claiming of free copies delivered to multiple residential premises, such as blocks of flats, where there is not a letterbox for each household.  

Issued November 2012
  • Optional circulation breakouts: Daily publications that do not have free circulation now have the option to report 1) Day of week average circulations by circulation type; and 2) Groups of daily averages (e.g. Weds/Thurs/Fri). 

Issued 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.

Issued January 2012
  • Reporting of editions: For issues distributed on or after 2 January 2012 all editions reported on the ABC certificate will be reported with an average circulation and breakout by circulation type, not just those with a change in ROP (display) advertising which has been the case up to this point.

  • Paid Postal Subscriptions – reporting of overseas copies: From reporting periods beginning January 2012 the requirement to break out overseas paid postal subscriptions is removed if they are less than 5% of the total average figure claimed in the category Newstrade, Single Copy and Subscription Sales.

  • Single copy sales – counter sales (non-daily publications): For issues distributed on or after 2 January 2012 publishers of non-daily publications are allowed to treat their counter sales made in a week as a sale of that week’s issue, simplifying the record keeping needed. This will alleviate the need to record separately by issue the counter sales of different issues.

  • Exclusion of copies purchased by press cutting agencies: For issues distributed on or after 2 January 2012 the requirement to exclude copies purchased by press cutting agencies is removed. 

  • Social Media: Rules have been added to allow from January 2012 the reporting of a basic measure of social media audience(s) on a product’s Multi-Platform Certificate (note: not on the ABC print certificate). Examples might be Facebook ‘Likes’ or Twitter ‘Followers’. 

Issued December 2011
  • Reporting of editorial content and pagination (for predominantly free titles). From reporting periods beginning January 2012 has been simplified so the analysis is based on the last issue reported in the period (ignoring excluded issues) rather than an average. Other changes include a revised definition of what constitutes advertising and the calculation is to the nearest half page rather than quarter page. Click on the link above for more details.

  • 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 - rate banding. From audit periods ending December 2011 all paid digital edition copies (including overseas) 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).

  • 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 on or after 2nd 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.

Issued June 2011
  • Editions: 1) No longer a requirement for separate rate card. 2) Clarification on treatment of wraps. 3) Clarification on reporting of changed format editions.

  • Free Letterbox delivery: Changes to requirements in relation to contract distributors

  • Free pick up: Changes to information required for master distribution list, management controls on free pick up and access to distribution points for the auditor.

Issued April 2011
  • Exclusions: A special dispensation has been agreed for weekly titles and exclusions surrounding the Easter/Royal Wedding/Early May bank holidays in 2011. 

Issued January 2011 
  • Cover Price: From reporting periods ending January 2011 any issue that includes paid sales where the cover price is not published will be excluded completely from the average circulation and will be reported separately on the certificate. Please see the letter on the above link for full details.



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

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