Fairfax: Use readership not circulation numbers

Fairfax has launched an attack on News Ltd for its use of circulation rather than readership figures to promote its property advertising.  

smh-domain-ad1In a full page advertisement in today’s Sydney Morning Herald for Fairfax’s Domain property masthead, it attacks News Ltd’s local Courier and Cumberland newspapers for using circulation numbers in its ad campaigns.

Headed “THE FACTS”, the ad says: “This circulation is not a measure of audience; it is in fact the total number of newspapers distributed to letterboxes. Distribution, or circulation, does not provide an advertiser with a true measure of exposure within an audience group or geographic area. Readership is what an advertiser pays for.”

It then features graphs suggesting Domain has a greater readership than various News Ltd titles.

The ad taps into a long-running debate over both systems.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation number is seen by many as a more robust measure, while there is less transparency around Roy Morgan Research’s readership numbers. The readership system is currently under review, by Newspaper Works, whose main funding comes from News Ltd and Fairfax.

Mark O’Brien, trading director at media agency PHD, told Mumbrella that he preferred to use circulation numbers because he found them more credible.

He said: “I’ve no trouble with News talking about circulation. Sure you need to talk about cost per thousand readership, but readership methodology just hasn’t changed, whereas they’ve cleaned up how they measure circulation quite a lot. It’s my preferred methodology.”

And OMD’s head of publishing Simon Davies said that circulation was also the first number that he used. He said: “We track performance over time based on the ABC numbers and use that to negotiate, and we use readership as a planning tool. We feel that circulation is a more accurate measure of performance.”

Earlier this week, the AFR reported that the industry body was refusing to reveal the progress of the review, although media buyer Harold Mitchell urged them to “get moving to fix it”.


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