Oz Newspaper Circulations Come Under Spotlight

22 April 2005

Australia's Audit Bureau of Circulation has announced a review of its practices following challenges to the integrity of its figures.

Chairman Dr Stephen Hollings says the review will look at the ABC's rules, definitions and its auditing procedures, as well as the long-running issue of more frequent data.

The move has come about after claims on a website that newspaper and magazine publishers are using free or discounted copies to bulk up circulation figures.

The Media Federation of Australia, representing media buyers, is pushing for more frequent data - quarterly rather than current half-yearly audits - and also wants greater clarity in ABC rules and a breakdown of what proportion of sales are paid for at newsstands and what are sold at a discount.

The ABC limits the number of promotional issues (free or discounted) to no more than one per cent of the total circulation. But media buyers want Australia to come into line with the UK and US, where breakdowns are given.

The issue was highlighted recently when Reed Business Information gave the ABC misleading circulation figures for its marketing magazine B&T. Rival publication AdNews successfully challenged Reed's audit on the basis that an industry body paid for a copy to be sent to its members.

The circulation integrity of several US newspapers was called into question last year forcing the American ABC to tighten its rules [WAMN: 15-Nov-04].

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff