['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]


To begin with show-and-tell this week, I'd like to show you a typical ABC pink sheet, the document which advertisers rely on to give them an accurate picture of a magazine's circulation details.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is an organization that gauges and measures circulation, readership, and audience information for magazines, newspapers, and other publications. There are multiple ABCs around the world; the American ABC was founded in 1914 and is based in Schaumberg, IL, with offices in New York and Toronto. It's funded with fees from its members, mainly comprised of media companies, advertisers, and some universities.

Generally speaking, the ABC audits a magazine by first receiving a stated circulation number from the magazine's publisher, then comparing that number with records from retailers, wholesalers, and other links in the magazine distribution chain. ABC publishes its results every six months to members, but a full auditing process can take up to nine months for each six-month period, by which time the situation of the magazine being audited may have changed greatly.

In order to provide timelier numbers, the ABC takes the figures submitted by magazines at the end of each six-month period and publishes them as "pink sheets" without any extra auditing. These pink sheets are available two to three months after the reporting period. (If a pink-sheet figure turns out to be too much higher than what the ABC finds with its audit, the publisher may be warned and eventually have its membership revoked for repeat offenses.)

Game publishers are not required to report ABC-audited circulation figures to the general public. Instead they report their own figures -- usually in the form of "rate base," or the average sell-through figure they guarantee to their advertisers. Also, due to the expense involved, most general-interest magazines in America do not apply for an ABC audit unless their circulation is around 125,000 copies or greater. Once a magazine reaches its point, it usually raises its ad rates to the point where outside confirmation of their sales figures becomes vital. As a result of this, most of the "second tier" of game magazines (such as Play or the Beckett titles) do not have ABC-audited figures, offering their own figures to advertisers instead.

I've redacted any identifying information of the magazine in this particular pink sheet, but I thought you'd be interested in having a look at how the front page of such a report is set up anyway.


And now I'd like you to tell me something -- what's up with Nintendo of America such that they want to "license" out Nintendo Power and keep it a print magazine? This, according to Perrin Kaplan in an interview published at Game Informer. I mean, Ziff's allegedly been trying to sell its mag-heavy portfolio for ages with little success, right? Are you telling me that a company's more interested in licensing Nintendo Power than one of several mags which sell more than that? Crazy!

I'll refrain from further comment until I hear the whole story, but if the mag's moving, then I do feel pretty bad for one new editor up at NP, who got laid off at the Official PlayStation Magazine, moved to Redmond for the NP job a few months ago, and may be facing another difficult decision right now...

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]