Telegraph withdraws from ABC after digital subscriptions overtake print

News brand is aiming to reach a million paid subscribers by 2023.

Telegraph: no longer publishing ABC figures
Telegraph: no longer publishing ABC figures

Telegraph Media Group has said it will withdraw from the ABC's reporting following today’s figures, which show print sales of The Daily Telegraph have fallen 12% year on year to 317,817.

The publisher said that its new focus on growing digital subscriptions meant that the ABC did not "accurately reflect the success" of its subscription strategy and that it would instead publish different, externally audited numbers. It will continue to work with the Publishers Audience Measurement Company and other industry bodies.

The Telegraph’s digital subscriptions grew 44% during 2019, it said, and as of December now outnumber print subscriptions, at 213,868 compared with 209,443. The Telegraph has a target of reaching 10 million online registered users and one million subscribers by 2023.

A spokeswoman for the Telegraph pointed out that it is the highest-selling quality daily newspaper in the latest ABCs, marginally ahead of centre-right rival The Times (although The Times is some way ahead when bulk copies are included). 

In a strongly worded response, the IPA said it was "extremely concerned" about the decision. 

Director-general Paul Bainsfair commented: "ABC is an industry-supported JIC [joint industry currency] and as such produces trusted, independent and transparent data which is essential for news brands trading. 

"We know our members strongly support the independent, agreed JIC standards of ABC and a separate audit from elsewhere, which may not be in the public domain, does not give them the same confidence needed to support advertising expenditure. We urge the Telegraph to reconsider their approach and work within ABC to achieve their strategic aims."

But the publisher said its figures would be independently assured by PwC and pledged that it would be "transparent with our core subscriber numbers which are omnichannel and we will communicate these numbers each month".

Telegraph Media Group was put up for sale in October by its current owners, Frederick and David Barclay.