News International has opened a fresh wound in the newspaper
publishing market by formally challenging an allegedly ’cynical’ bulk
sales tactic used by its rival, Mirror Group, last week.
The move put renewed pressure on the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which
is in the final throes of revising the rules for calculating national
newspaper circulations in the wake of NI’s 1996 row over bulk sales with
the Telegraph Group.
Ian Weston, the circulation director of NI, has fired off letters to the
ABC, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the Newspaper
Publishers Association and the Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers, voicing concern at the level of Mirror Group’s bulk sales
activity last week. He also lambasts the Mirror for ’a cynical and
manipulative attempt to distort reported sales figures’.
From last Thursday to Saturday, a Mirror promotion with Ladbrokes
involved a bulk sale of more than 400,000 copies, according to
Roger Eastoe, the deputy managing director of Mirror Group, said: ’We’ve
done this before and there is nothing unusual.’
Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising affairs at ISBA, said: ’I
hope we are not entering a new game of hardball with the ABC as the
ball. The damage done to the ABC’s credibility last time was not
Weston has asked the ABC to exclude the Mirror’s bulk sales from last
week and to confirm that the new rules would invalidate them.
His remonstrations came as the ABC announced that the final agreed
revision for multiple and bulk circulation figures would be in place
from 29 June.
Publishers have agreed on various ceilings for different forms of bulk
sales. Hotel sales and direct mailings are still under discussion.
Ray Hall, the chief executive of the ABC, said that he could not take
any decision until NI specified the nature of the bulk sale and the
grounds on which they should be excluded.