There are a myriad of approaches that media owners can take to get their publications into the hands of their readers.
Media buyers want clear, independent verification which includes both circulation figures and the route by which the publication has ended up in the hands of those readers.
It gives us a better understanding of the relative values of the circulation of one publication against its competitors, thereby supplying truly informed decisions on behalf of a client.
It is also important to understand the ebb and flow of those numbers during the course of the year, rather than just consider an overall average, to eke out every last pound of value from a supplier on our clients’ behalf.
With this in mind, the Audit Bureau of Circulation has modernised its approach, both across what it audits, and how the numbers are reported.
Arguably, the essence of a news brand is its content, but no matter how excellent the content is, it can become worthless if the claimed coverage of audiences it attracts can’t be independently verified.
The print sector in the UK has verification that is unrivalled by any other media sector anywhere in the world, with the combination of both the very recent introduction of Pamco data and the very established ABC circulation data.
And it’s the trust media buyers have in these numbers, that allows them to confidently place their clients’ budgets within this publishing medium, having already picked it for a host of other reasons such as its trusted and engaging editorial environment.
So, while transparency has been an issue for other, newer media, in print it’s an area of clarity and confidence.
News brands have had the ability to produce independently verified key sales metrics since 1931 when the ABC was first established – a time before even I joined the industry!
Over the years, other Joint Industry Committees have adopted a similar approach for other media channels.
At Group M UK, we spend over £400m a year on behalf of our clients within publishing brands across their print and digital platforms.
Safe and trusted
The reason why we spend so much is easy to understand. News brands offer safe environments for our clients’ products and services, they are proven to contribute to long-term brand building efforts and they reach an engaged audience.
Today, of course we have many options as to where we recommend our clients’ money should be spent.
These decisions are never made lightly, and quality information is critical to the process.
The ABC supplies census data, not samples, which tell us what actually happened in terms of distributed copies, so we’re always fully informed.
Recent changes to both the standards behind the data and the way they are reported also help us extract clearer insights and drive easier cross-sector comparability.
Every figure on an ABC certificate is backed up by evidence – ensuring the ABC supplies the granular qualified data that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else.
For example, a headline level of actively purchased numbers will break down how those copies were bought – UK vs overseas, subscriptions vs over-the-counter, in multi-packs etc. There are new, optional tables for free distribution, including dynamic distribution (copies given away at targeted locations) which was initially adopted by Hearst.
This provides great insight alongside other types of data such as audience research.
There have been a series of ABC roadshows that are being held at agencies to showcase the new standards and certificates and how to get the most out of them for the benefit of our clients.
I would encourage planners and buyers to get up to speed on the latest developments.
Winning back market share
The entire media landscape has changed dramatically over the years I have worked in the industry, and as buyers and planners we need to keep up to date and understand both our market and the data we use to dissect it.
The new ABC standards are part of that process and demonstrate the positive impact of the industry working together to update standards and ensure reporting is fit for purpose.
That independently-audited ABC data, overlaid with the very latest Pamco readership data (with the second wave of that data now available) based on 35,000 face-to-face interviews annually, results in the highest-quality, trustworthy media data available to planners, buyers and their clients, anywhere on this planet.
The wealth of data available today gives us numerous opportunities – from enabling innovative approaches across both planning and trading – to fusing it with other proprietary data gathered by agencies, clients or the publishing marketing bodies, Magnetic and Newsworks, including the work they have both done on the importance of a trusted environment.
There is also more potential for publishers to package and sell audience delivery in pertinent environments across their products and platforms, either individually, or working in cooperation with each other.
The recent initiative by News UK, Telegraph Media Group and The Guardian News & Media with the launch of the Ozone Project to jointly sell their digital inventory is very much a move in the right direction, and I hope it acts as a springboard for publishers to go further.
The goal is wide open for the sector to regain some of the lost market share. Let’s not waste this opportunity.
Steve Goodman is managing director of print trading at Group M UK