Circulation reporting changes aim to help news brands share ‘message of growth’

ABC wants to better help newsbrands manage the narrative that suits their strategy, with News UK one of the publishers that will take up the option to report its circulation figures privately.

It is no longer mandatory for newsbrands to report their circulation figures publicly, following an update to the longstanding ABC audit system that aims to create a balance in how the national newspapers tell their story of growth to the market.

“Publishers have been concerned about how they get their message of growth out and whether that is hampered by our monthly release reporting data,” explains ABC’s chief executive, Simon Redlich.

“There are concerns the monthly release of circulation data is potentially a trigger for a narrative that focuses purely on circulation and doesn’t necessarily talk about the brand in its entirety. Where some publishers want to focus on particular strategies they have, then the narrative around the monthly release has been a concern for them.”

The Telegraph pulled out of the ABC audit at the beginning of the year as part of its strategy to focus on digital. The publisher said the ABC metric was not the key metric behind its subscription strategy and “not how we measure our success”.

It is one of many signs that paid-for circulation is becoming a less important measurement for newsbrands, which are increasingly turning their attention to subscriptions and prioritising direct reader revenues.

News UK is one of the publishers that will report the circulation of its brands privately from now on. The publisher of The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times says while print remains a “vitally important” method of distributing its editorial to readers and meeting its advertisers’ needs, it is logical the way it measure its audiences reflects the way the world works today.

News UK will instead shift its focus to PAMCo, which measures total reach across mobile, tablet, PC and print.

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“News UK is a multi-platform business with brands that reach more people than ever before via mobile, web, apps, video, radio stations and podcasts, alongside print,” says News UK’s chief operating officer, David Dinsmore.

“A renewed focus on total audience across our many distribution platforms enables the news sector, media agencies and advertising partners to understand the true value of our newsbrands and the power of advertising within a trusted context as they continue to see significant audience growth.”

What we want to achieve is help publishers managing the narrative that suits their strategy.

Simon Redlich, ABC

If a publisher chooses private reporting, they will have their circulation figures audited to industry standards via ABC, but the publication of circulation figures is under the control of the publisher.

ABC is able to make private data available to agencies under confidentiality requirements. Titles reporting privately will also be listed as ABC-certified in the ABC’s Data Hub, with an indication that the data is held by the publisher. An ABC-verified publisher contact will also be listed.

“What we want to achieve is help publishers managing the narrative that suits their strategy. We also want to make it as easy as possible for people buying the advertising space to do so,” Redlich says.

“Clearly it’s in everyone’s interest that people that want to buy advertising space with newsbrands can do that as easily as possible.”

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In further response to publisher concerns, ABC will no longer publish monthly circulation reports. Instead there will be a rolling release of data throughout the month as publishers submit their figures.

Publishers can now also report optional metrics in addition to the mandatory metrics required by ABC reporting. For example, the Evening Standard is able to report the number of copies of newspapers it is delivering to people’s doors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been trying to support the newsbrands by making it possible to report all the ways they’ve been adapting at great speed during this very unusual period,” Redlich adds.