Magazines should be in the business of Customers who Count and NOT Counting Customers

June 20, 2008

BPA, along with about 10 other association and auditing bodies, including ABC, has ramped up a campaign to combat ad buying in un-audited titles. Called Buy Safe Media, the program targets client-side buyers in b-to-b markets that spend $250,000 or less on advertising.
The program, initiated two years ago by BPA at the request of member publishers, has emerged from a testing and research phase and the 11 associations and auditing bodies have begun to reach out to their constituencies in earnest.

The aforementioned quote is nothing but the intro to an article by Bill Mickey titled BPA and Friends Turn up Heat on Un-Audited Magazines… This so called campaign of Buy Safe Media tries to convince advertisers and ad agencies not to advertise in un-audited magazines (that is almost 6,500 consumer magazines alone out of the 7,000 plus on the market place). Both Bob Sacks and myself were horrified to say the least on how low some folks in our industry are willing to sink in order to make their business flourish. Unknown to them, or so it seems, is with their action they maybe bringing the temple on their competitors and themselves at the same time.
It is needless to say that people who are willing to advertise in a magazine that gives you 52 issues for $10.00 because it is audited, but not in a magazine that will charge you the same price for one issue but is not audited, are not in the business of customers who count, but rather they are in the business of counting customers…customers in most cases who do not count.
What follows is what my friend Bob wrote in his electronic newsletter today including my comments:

BoSacks Speaks Out: BPA-ABC’s Unwise Attack on Magazines

The new pathology detailed below actually disgusts me. There are over 18,000 magazines printed today and of that number 7,000 are newsstand titles. There are approximately 1,000 new titles started each year. This report and the campaign against legitimate magazines listed below is an attack at the heart of the entrepreneurial publishing business. ABC, ABM, BPA, and the Association of National Advertisers have a very minor fraction of the titles published in their bullpen, yet they wish to crush all who stand in their way or choose not join their exclusive clubs.

I am not alone with these feelings. Samir Husni wrote to me in an email last night that:

. . . it is about time for magazines to start looking at customers who count and not just counting customers . . . those folks who publish great magazines like Good and Flaunt do not need an auditor to tell them how many people are receiving their magazine. Their customers, both the advertisers and the readers know the relationship that they enjoy between the reader and the magazine . . . It is a pure case of jealousy and greed to launch such a campaign. When are we going to learn not to attack each other and focus on other media. Advertisers who want to reach that unique upscale audience of V magazine are not interested to see either the ABC audit or the BPA audit . . . When are we going to learn . . . I have no earthly idea . . .

It is unconscionable to attempt to crush the rest of the industry. It is attacks and stupidity like this that will tear down the very industry that they are attempting to prop up with self-serving dogma. Like chastity, auditing is/and should be a choice. A pox on all your houses; but I cannot wish harm on my industry by wishing that ye reap what ye sow.


  1. Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  2. It seems that you have completely missed the point. Have you even looked on the Buy Safe Media site? What is so morally outrageous about an association that wants accountability for companies with limited ad budgets? Why shouldn’t advertisers have access to verified circulation information?
    Is there something to hide?

    This campaign has NOTHING to do with the quality of unaudited publications. I’m sure the content in most unaudited magazines is riveting. But from an advertiser’s perspective, that’s not enough for our clients. We need real numbers. We need to measure ROI. And how can we do that if we don’t know who is seeing our ads.

    In my opinion, the only disgusting thing in this situation is your one-sided, half-baked opinion.
    You’ve jumped to conclusions and slandered people in the process. You owe them an apology.

    Samir’s response: The name alone Buy Safe Media assumes that all unaudited magazines are not safe…The only opposite to Safe is Unsafe and that’s what I do not like about the entire campaign. We continue to attack each other and hurt each other’s businesses…it is about time for the entire magazine industry to UNITE and think about our future as an industry as a WHOLE…we have to be in the business of customers who count and not just counting customers…sorry.

  3. I argue that, from an advertiser’s perspective, unaudited media IS unsafe. Advertising is an investment. When you invest in anything, you want to be as sure (as you can be) that you’re making the right decision.

    My clients want the biggest return possible. I can’t, with good conscience, suggest an unaudited pub because there is no verifiable evidence that circulation stats are accurate or up to date.

    This campaign is geared to media buyers. I’m guessing you’re not an advertiser. Advertising in general is never a sure thing. We have to grab ahold of anything that offers accurate information about the audience.

    It’s not that unaudited publications are lessor in quality; they are just lesser in assurance. We have a target and unaudited media means shooting in the dark.

  4. Mollie: I couldn’t disagree with you more. Anyone who has spent time on the publisher side knows 2 things incontrovertibly

    1) AN ABC or BPA audit embodies everything Mark Twain meant about “Lies, damn lies, and statistics”. Statement management and circ planning are often about how to make your numbers fit today’s “rules”.

    2) There are very few media planners who know how to read a publisher’s statement correctly.

    If there’s a media planning side to this argument, it’s that you want what’s easy, not what’s accurate. A publisher’s statement makes it easy for the 22 year old jr media planner to not get hoodwinked, and provide a simple report up the ladder.

    The real answer here is if the media planning side was willing to do the base work, money would flow to the publishers with integrity – with or without the publisher’s statement. The prevalence of scan based trading will make publishers can make publishers more and more accountable for their actions.

    This program is about ABC and BPA protecting their turf – nothing more.

  5. I suggest you lobby the government to allow publicly traded companies to only provide unaudited financials to investors. Next get the IRS to announce that they will never again “AUDIT” any tax return.On your way to Washington (to lobby) arrange a flight on an airline that is exempt from having their maintenances proceedures “audited” by the government. Finally see if you can convince the folks who invested with Bernie Madoff that “stricter” auditing of investment firms is unnecessary or should be eliminated all together. Airlines, investment firms etc. provide a service….so do publishers. (By the way The “unaudited airline”can charge less for a seat than the “audited airline” can…. lower maintanence
    costs!!!) When I invest my advertising dollars I think I deserve audited verifiction that I’m getting
    what I paid for.

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