News International has broken ranks with rival newspaper houses to
challenge the true worth of ABC figures as a currency in the
It has begun a major campaign to tackle the controversial issue of
removing bulk sales from ABC data.
The publisher is targeting agencies, clients and industry bodies with a
monthly mailshot which aims to draw attention to what News International
claims is the ‘cynical abuse’ of bulk sales to disguise real drops in
sales by some of its competitors.
In doing so, News International is throwing down the gauntlet to rival
national newspaper publishers, which have blocked previous attempts to
raise the issue through the Newspaper Publishers Association.
The first mailshot, which is due to hit top newspaper advertisers’ desks
this Friday, breaks down the ABC figures for March into three
categories: ABC, bulk sales and real sales. It also tracks the pattern
of bulk sales over the previous six months in graph form, highlighting
the high number of bulks used by virtually all its competitors, and the
low number used by News International titles.
Two forms have also been sent, one to be filled in and returned to News
International by those who want to receive the information on a monthly
basis, and another calling for a reassessment of the way bulk sales are
reported, to be signed and sent to the ABC.
Clive Milner, the general manager of News Group Newspapers, which
publishes the News International tabloids, the Sun and the News of the
World, said the aim was to ensure ABC figures were a worthy currency.
He said: ‘Agencies have been asking for changes to the ABC figures,
including separate weekday and Saturday sales figures. This is fine, but
the starting position is fudged because of bulks. The starting point
must be more accuracy and transparency.’
Coincidentally, Times Newspapers, the broadsheet arm of News
International, was celebrating this week after poaching the Forte Hotels
bulk sales contract from its rival, the Daily Telegraph. The decision to
take the Times will wipe around 20,000 sales from the Telegraph’s ABC
figure, driving it close to the crucial one million mark.