- Changes set to be introduced to the way newspapers calculate their circulation figures are likely to have a significant impact on the circulations of some national newspapers.
The new rules, announced this week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, aim "to restore the industry's confidence in the provision of audited data for national newspapers."
The most significant changes are designed to toughen 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 recurrent disputes about bulk copies.
The change to the rules on exclusion issues is being seen by the industry as the most critical. Under the old rules, publishers needed only a one per cent difference in circulation and a "good reason", such as printing problems, to exclude a particular day's sale from its average monthly sale figure. 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 now. I think this is a step in the right direction. The question I would like to ask is: could we have this information on daily basis?"
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 back up by signed agreements and proof of delivery. For example, a newspaper cannot supply more copies to a hotel than a hotel has rooms.
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.