There've been a lot of rumors flying about on the fate of ABC interactive, the not-for-profit Audit Bureau of Circulations' for-profit Interactive spin-off. I just called up ABC's Corporate Communications gal Marybeth Miles to find out the truth.
ABC's member-driven board decided to integrate ABCi into the main ABC during their most recent meeting in November. The for-profit corporation no longer exists and staff members were moved from the old i offices back into the main ABC building.
Every company that was a member of both organizations will continue getting the exact same online and offline auditing services at about the same price, with added benefit of being able to pop an officially approved "snapshot summary" of their online audit figures into a new section of their print publication's audit statement. Which may make it easier for print sales reps to cross-sell online.
Companies that were only members of the i side (about 40% of total i members) have their choice of either continuing to get the same services by joining regular ABC for about the same price as before, or discontinuing service altogether.
Marybeth positioned this as a "wait and see" retrenchment noting that many of ABCi's competitors have either gone under or are "trying to figure out their paradigms" as the online ad sales marketplace continues in its current lull. The door is open for ABC to push hard on growing its interactive side again someday.
From my perspective, the main thing holding such growth back is the fact that agency media buying isn't all that integrated yet.
Interactive and print buyers are often different people. Print people are used to seeing a standard ABC audit statement in every media kit, especially US newspaper and consumer magazine media kits. Online media buyers haven't been educated to look for or request that info, and since they are not comparing apples-to-apples across media channels, they don't care.