For newspapers, the Audit Bureau of Circulation's figures count a lot, as their stats can determine a publication's advertising rate—for better or worse. Its interactive unit, the ABCi just announced, via a partnership with Verve Wireless, that it is to track how many readers are accessing news sites via mobile devices—but how much difference will it make to newspapers' falling revenues?
"With all the buzz around the iPad, and with use of mobile browsers exploding," explained ABC president and MD Michael Lavery, "newspapers and their advertisers are increasingly interested in seeing mobile metrics detailed in ABC reports." Well, you betcha. How much longer has the print media got before it writes its paper products off as a loss-making venture, sells off its immense printing plants for scrap, and invests in firms that mine for rare metals such as indium and hafnium, two elements found in mobile devices? Well, your guess is as good as mine, but it's happening.
According to Verve, mobile access of news and information has shot up by 243% over the past year, and it expects to serve over 2.2 billion pages to readers in 2010. And advertisers are hopeful about the arrival of iPad, as they are reported to have been spending big on in-app ad space.
Last month, the ABC announced that it would include paid digital subscriptions for tablet devices in its figures, provided that both advertising and editorial content was the same as the publication's printed version. It did not, however, extend the same courtesy to e-readers such as the Kindle, the wisdom being that, due to their monochrome screens and lack of advertising, they are not in the same category.
The ABC hasn't yet extended the idea across the board—currently, just Verve Wireless's North American partners will be the ones benefiting from the decision. No doubt it's a win-win situation for Verve, who may well get a whole heap of new partners on the back of the announcement. And, it seems to me that, the more publishers who get in on this action, the more power they will have to lobby the bureau to have its figures for both print and digital editions folded in together.