Gannett Co. Inc. said yesterday it has dropped plans to create an alternative to the Audit Bureau of Circulations and 14 Gannett newspapers that recently withdrew from ABC will rejoin.
ABC is the cooperative of advertisers, advertising agencies and newspaper publishers that provides the newspaper industry with a standard, independent measure of circulation. Gannett said it dropped plans to create a rival to ABC following a meeting Wednesday between newspaper industry officials and Gannett executives held at The Washington Post Co.
"We would much rather work within ABC than outside of it, and we are hopeful some of our suggestions for updating ABC policies will be thoughtfully considered," Gannett President John J. Curley said yesterday.
"We decided that what we wanted was to get ABC's attention, which I think we did, and that what we really wanted was not to go off on our own at all," said Vincent Spezzano, publisher of Gannett's Rochester newspapers. "What we wanted was to correct what we felt have been some inequities. We think at least the machinery for that consideration is now in place."
When Rosslyn-based Gannett pulled its newspapers out of ABC late last year, the company charged that ABC's rules for measuring circulation were outdated. Gannett officials said yesterday they have received no guarantees that any of these rules will be changed.
On Jan. 6, 51 newspaper publishers released a statement opposing Gannett's effort to organize an alternative to ABC. The 51 publishers -- including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune -- said publishers and advertisers need a "strong, independent guarantee of standardized circulation data."
Several newspaper publishers interviewed recently said they believe the main reason Gannett pulled some of its newspapers out is that ABC refused to count "bulk sales" of USA Today to airlines and hotels as regular, paid circulation. Gannett argues that sales to airlines and hotels, which then give the newspaper away free to travelers, should be counted as regular circulation because those newspapers are read by a desirable audience.
But ABC, which counts those newspapers in a separate category, argues that they should not be included in regular circulation figures because individuals do not pay for the newspapers, and ABC cannot verify that the newspapers actually are distributed.
Roy Megarry, publisher of The Globe and Mail in Toronto, said yesterday he does not plan to rejoin ABC until some of its rules are changed. Megarry pulled The Globe and Mail out of ABC last fall, calling its circulation rules "archaic and stupid."