ABCi Folded Into Offline Parent

Reflecting increasingly integrated media plans, and perhaps a lack of demand for interactive-only services, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is making its standalone Web site-auditing unit, ABCi, part of its regular services.

ABCi spokesperson Marybeth Meils said the move came at the behest of ABC’s 4,300 members, who wanted interactive auditing integrated with regular circulation auditing.

“We’re totally member driven,” she said, “so whenever we hear something, we listen.”

Member will have the option for Web site data to be integrated in regular ABC reports. In addition to the multi-page site audits ABCi produces, Internet data will be included as part of the ABC report, in a briefer format, Meils said. She added that ABC will still perform rigorous examinations of sites’ activity, but publisher can now have it condensed into an overview they can more easily use to sell marketers.

“It’s not that the members didn’t think it was very valuable,” she said, “it’s that they felt it was easier for buyers if it was on one page.”

ABC, which primarily certifies print publications’ circulation figures, is a non-profit organization run by a board representing its membership, which consists of publishers, advertisers, and agencies.

The integration will most likely shrink the number of interactive audits Schaumberg, Ill.-based ABC performs. With the Web site auditing now falling under ABC, it will only be available to members, ruling out many smaller and Internet-only publishers who are not part of ABC. As of now, 60 percent of its 145 or so clients are already members, according to Meils.

ABCi began providing third-party verification of site activity in 1996, to avoid the publishers’ obvious bias toward making their sites’ figures look more attractive, and the shortcomings of ratings companies like Nielsen//NetRatings and comScore.

ABCi hoped to become the de facto auditing standard for the new medium, as ABC figures are for magazines and newspapers. With the dot-com meltdown, however, standalone Web sites mostly went by the wayside, with many of the survivors being part of large traditional media companies. ABCi’s published client list includes many online arms of media companies: Forbes.com, The Economist, USA Today, Inc.com, and New York Times Digital.

ABCi had begun to branch out from its core services of Web site auditing. In November 2001, it began auditing email campaigns, and this past April, ABCi started to audit wireless sites. An ABC spokesperson said the company wouldn’t be dropping any services with the consolidation of the two units.

The headline of this article was changed to clarify that ABCi continues to provide Web site auditing services for ABC members. Also, the fourth paragraph was changed to reflect that ABC will offer comprehensive Web site auditing reports.

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