Thursday, March 05, 2009

Are the national newspapers guilty of 'bulking up' their sales figures?

Do you ever pick up a free copy of a newspaper when you are in a hotel? Or at the airport? Maybe in a fast food restaurant or coffee shop? It might be free to you, but those freebie newspapers count as 'bulk sales'.

Newspapers establish their advertising rates based on the overall sales figures, including these so called 'bulk sales', so it is easy to see how tempting the it must be to fake these figures.

The figures are monitored by the ABC, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, and Roy Greenslade reveals in today Media Guardian that they are about to launch an inquiry to see whether there is any massaging of the figures going on. Apparently they will reveal discrepancies that may herald the end of bulk sales.

The timing could not be worse. Newspapers already suffering the slow hemorrhaging of advertising revenue to Google are now seeing pagination plummet because of the recession. This puts a squeeze on the rates that advertisers will be prepared to pay - if an inquiry reveals figures are dubious it could see the ABC reduce official circulation, prices will have to be reduced still further.

Quoting the most recent ABC figures Greenslade reveals:

"Some daily titles are heavily reliant on bulk sales. According to the ABC report for the month of January, the Daily Mail's bulks averaged 128,770 a day (107,501 of which went to airlines). The Daily Telegraph's were 109,319 (92,088 to airlines), which was almost 12% of its total "headline" sale."
The grim reapers of the recession might not be so keen to report on these stories about themselves, but for businesses who are wisely seeking to market their way out of the recession, it makes it more important than ever to negotiate a good price!

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