The ABC Audit Committee led by Ms Margaret Au-Yong embarked on a series of interactive sessions with major publishers particularly newspapers on the new ‘ABC Reporting Standards’ format. The first session was with the New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Group followed by the Star, Utusan Malaysia and Astro Publications. The sessions will be on-going with other publishers in the coming months.
The objective of the sessions is to seek feedback and share views on the implementation of the format. The new more detailed format was for the period of January to June 2012. A new and major feature is the auditing of the e-papers, which will play a major role in decision making in the near future.
Miss Margaret Au-Yong emphasized that the new format will ensure greater transparency and accountability of the newspaper and magazine industries. “The ABC decided to revamp the old version for a more comprehensive system that will reflect accuracy of the circulation of newspapers, magazines and digital media,” said Margaret.
As for the sessions, Mr Simon Wong of Canon Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd said such sessions should be conducted more often. The new format is a good improvement and systematic. The numbers are more accurate and advertisers will be confident in understanding how the numbers are derived.
For Mr Claudian Navin of Baba Products (M) Sdn Bhd, the sessions allow the understanding of issues among the publishers, advertisers and media or advertising agencies. However, the format is new and only in practice this year. “Time is needed for the format to work and we need to be pro-active in giving feedback to its implementation. On the e-paper, it is still in its infancy and auditing at the moment may not take into consideration factors that may become apparent later. As such, the audit format for this medium must be allowed to evolve over time,” commented Navin.
ABC Committee member, Ms Cheong Mei Mei believed the session is a win-win situation for the print industry as it is closely linked to advertising which relies on accurate circulation figures for their clients. More so for the digital media that is fast growing.
Ms Ling Lee Lee, Business Director, OMD Malaysia felt that the session is a two way communication between ABC and publishers. Questions and comments raised by ABC are clarified and noted by publishers for further improvement. For the e-paper, monitoring could be improved by location, devices and drop-out rate. “In addition to Nielsen, ABC figures are also used to support media plans,” stated Lee Lee.
Media Specialist Association President, Mr Ranganathan Somanathan mentioned that the session is a very good initiative and the issue of accountability is on everyone’s agenda. With increased scrutiny on value of media buys, advertisers will have better sense of compliance. He believes the format will be successful as the full benefit will be reaped when all publishers make themselves accountable. And energies have to be spent in getting greater compliance from all parties involved.
He also added that e-auditing gives the advertisers and agencies a good perspective of where the readers are migrating to. It is a natural progression, given the evolving readership habits.
Ms Margaret Lim, Executive Chairman of Aegis Media highlighted that, “The sessions demonstrated the willingness of publishers in being transparent and supportive of ABC’s agenda of building trust in ABC circulation numbers. In addition, we were able to see the logistics that go with the different pricing, geographical distribution, different distributions such as airlines, hotels, events and have an understanding of the eco system that has to be taken into consideration when growing the e-paper.
The format gives us a better understanding of how the newspaper is distributed geographically as well. It gives better depth in the numbers to help us make better informed decision. Also, over time, we will be able to see trends better.
We back our recommendations with figures that we trust, circulation combined with readership data.”
Mr Lai Hon Kit, Chief Financial Officer, Zenith Media believed that the interactive session is beneficial with the introduction of the new audit format that has comprehensive analysis. This will benefit the advertising industry as the format shows the depth and real value of the publishers’ numbers. Audited numbers are the best way to evaluate circulation integrity, vitality and relevance. The market has always demanded for transparency and the format has more answers than questions for the advertising industry.
“The introduction of e-paper auditing is a positive one, especially with the number in viewing news online has increased tremendously as smartphones, tablets and e-readers gain traction, and we expect accelerated adoption of these devices. This new initiative will enable advertisers to better evaluate online spending with the publishers and understand the ROI for both news platforms – e-paper and print,” stressed Hon Kit.
The president of the Malaysian Advertisers’ Association, Mr Khoo Kah Khoon reinforced that, “The new ABC audit rules protect the advertisers, the advertising agency and the subscribers from false claims, at the same time furnishing the subscribers with a certified document on the authenticity of the figures that should be accepted without question by all who purchase space in member publications. ABC audit rules need to be constantly reviewed, evolved and taking into account the fast changing media landscape with the sole intention to provide the most authentic and reliable data to the market.”
ABC’s Chairwoman, Ms Chan Sheow-Vern summed up the whole introduction of the new format by stating, “ABC Malaysia has been tasked to provide factual and trustable circulation and equivalent figures that aid accountable decision-making in media planning.
The 10-year old audit reporting standard for both press and magazines had been revamped by incorporating more insightful data that tells a better story to media planners and buyers, as well as advertisers. Evidently, it is the digital replica which is now an inevitable route to consumers of media.
This new format re-sets the base and all publishers will find it beneficial to share openly, as advertisers knew that each has its role to play and only with accountable numbers that one can plan properly and extensively.
It’s with the passion of the Audit Committee and the industry that made this happen, and the only way to thank their immense effort is to seriously consider joining the industry where transparency and true accountability is the core. With the new reporting standards, we look forward to a prosperous and truly healthy media industry. And ABC Malaysia delivers trust.”