UK national newspaper owner Richard Desmond has thrown down the gauntlet to rival publishers over the contentious issue of bulk copies.

He is ditching the practice of giving away free copies of his Daily and Sunday Express mid-market tabloid titles from the end of next month.

The giveaways, found in hotels, on airplanes, in gyms and cafes, will be dropped because Desmond believes the transient readers who pick them up are of "little use to advertisers".

The giveaway copies are also used routinely to inflate circulation figures. The Daily Express gave away 61,179 copies in May, accounting for 6.8% of its total circulation of 898,396, similar to the proportion of bulks given away by other national newspapers.

Simon Myerson, managing director of Desmond's publishing company Northern & Shell, is now challenging the competition to excise bulk figures from their circulation totals.

He says: "We do not feel we have to overstate our position by relying on free or discounted copies, as our competitors are still doing. This is an important decision and we challenge rivals to follow our lead and take out the bulks from their own figures."

He adds: "We believe advertisers deserve transparent and reliable data on which to base their buying decisions."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff