12 Building a print circulations audit system

12.3. A note of warning

As stated above, an audit system doesn’t come about by itself; it must be envisioned, designed and created by the members of the ABC. A mechanical copying of any existing audit system will never work properly, since it is alien to the given market.

There are many models around the world which can be taken into consideration (which I strongly advice to be studied), and the basic principles of these audit systems are the same (if I may say, universal), but there are particularities for every local market (see subchapter 6.2.), and these determine the architecture and the details of your future audit system. There is no recipe, only the hard work of understanding the principles of an audit system, seeking out and studying the best foreign models, and applying these to your given situation.

Many will be eager to have the audit system immediately – this isn’t possible. There is a first step to be taken first: forming the ABC. Then, you can take the second step of making your audit system.

I have seen ABCs, where small groups of players paid a lot of money (hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars) to consulting firm(s) to create audit systems. This approach and the ABCs didn’t work, and their money was wasted. These ABCs sre now defunct. There are several other instances where the newly formed ABCs ended by being a place of gathering for its members, without specific goals and plans. These ABCs are merely clubs, but don’t provide any service.

So, get prepared to cope with some obstacles, unsuccessful meetings, and most generally, periodic bad news. Make sure that everybody has an awareness to expect such problems. This understanding will seemingly make your effort even harder, but your partners will at least be aware of the expectation.

When I worked with the development of the ABCs I helped to create (and for which I am still involved, it took us eight to 12 months from beginning to establish the ABCs to doing the first audit.

The time needed to establish and run an audit system depends heavily on the level of knowledge and understanding of the market processes, the intensity and level of involvement of the market players who work on the ABC initiative, and the presence of the assistance provided to the ABC by experts/consultants.

Another piece of challenging news: the initiative group should work (and finance) the first and very difficult stage of establishing the ABC, establish the audit system, then drive it toward the first audit. The cohesiveness and staying power of the initiative group is a great test of trust, cooperation and endurance. Ask yourself again: are you and your market ready for this test?

Last, but not least: the costs for doing audits are financed by the publishers, all over the world. There is no ABC where the advertisers or media agencies are financing these costs. They have a different role to support the ABC (in many cases by paying the membership fees), and to invest in the print advertising market. This is a trade-off publishers should be aware of.

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