New rules governing how newspapers calculate their circulation
figures are likely to have a significant impact on the sales figures of
some national newspapers.
The reforms, announced this week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations,
aim to restore the industry’s confidence in audited data for national
newspapers. The rules will be applied to the next set of ABCs.
The most significant changes are designed to tighten the rules allowing
publishers to exclude certain issues from ABC calculations, bring
clarity to the definitions of ’full’ and ’lesser rate’ sales and to
resolve the recurring disputes about bulk copies.
The rules governing exclusion issues are being seen by the newspaper
industry as the most critical.
Under the old guidelines, newspaper publishers needed only a 1 per cent
difference in circulation and a ’good reason’, such as printing
problems, to exclude a particular day’s sale from its average monthly
The practice had been open to abuse with days being excluded purely
because sales were poor. Under the new rules publishers need to show a
circulation change of 10 per cent before an issue can be excluded.
Laura James, the media director at New PHD, said: ’It means the data
will be more reliable and I think we will see a larger decline in
certain titles. I think this is a step in the right direction. The
question I would like to ask is: Can we have this information on a daily
The issue of bulk rate sales is one that has plagued the industry for
years, with certain publishers accusing others of using the bulks
category to cover the dumping of issues.
The changes mean that bulk copies supplied to hotels, airlines and
supermarkets must be backed up by signed agreements and proof of
Clarity also comes to lesser rate sales. Issues that are discounted on a
one-off promotional basis will in future count as lesser rate sales.