The UK unit of Hearst Corporation's National Magazine Company is blazing a new - and, many say, long overdue - trail in sales credibility with its decision to release monthly circulation data for its stable of sixteen monthly and weekly magazines. Among these are Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Prima and She.

Says NatMag managing director Duncan Edwards: "Our customers have been asking for this information for years and we have decided that there's no reason why we shouldn't give them it. We have become increasingly convinced that doing what your customers want is a good thing."

The unprecedented step, says Edwards, reflects the company's commitment to transparency. It was hailed as a "brave and pioneering move" by a number of UK media agencies.

"It's fantastic news," said MediaCom group press director Steve Goodman. "It's great [that] one publisher is breaking the mould and providing the data, and hopefully other media owners will begin to see that it's a positive thing for the industry."

Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising affairs at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers is equally enthusiastic, calling it "an enlightened move".

He added: "It's an open secret in the industry that circulation varies quite substantially by issue. Openness and transparency from media owners is a must today."

NatMag kicked the scheme into play Tuesday, releasing on its website a month-by-month breakdown of historic circulation figures backdated to February 2003.

In future it will publish retrospective monthly figures to coincide with the official six-monthly average from the Audit Bureau of Circulations - although the monthly dataset may not be referred to as 'ABC data'.

Rival publishers - among them IPC, Emap, Hachette Filipacchi and Condé Nast - declined comment. The exception was BBC Magazines' circulation director Chris Gadsby, who was decidedly cool about NatMag's initiative.

"This is not a move that we would want to follow", he said, explaining that it would give competitors unwanted access to sensitive sales information.

The ABC was guarded in the extreme. The release of monthly data (as opposed to the ABC's six-monthly averages) was permitted under its rules, conceded a spokesman. But it would otherwise make no comment.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff