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Magazine audits suffer another massive blow as publishers aim to turn narrative to readership

News Corp has delivered a potential deathblow to Australia’s independent magazine circulation audit system, becoming the second major publisher in less than a week to withdraw from the Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA).news-corp-australia-1-800x382

The move by the company’s magazine arm NewsLifeMedia follows Thursday’s announcement from Bauer Media that it was withdrawing from the system.

The withdrawals follow years of declining circulations which led to headlines every quarter highlighting most magazine titles’ falling print numbers.

As a result of Bauer Media and NewsLifeMedia pulling out of the audit, advertisers will no longer have third party verification that magazine circulations are what the publications claim them to be.

The boss of the AMAA has today warned brands they will have to choose which data to trust before they decide where to advertise.

The AMAA runs both the ABC paid circulation audits and CAB distribution audits.

Bauer and NewsLifeMedia make up two of the big three Australian magazine publishers, with Seven West Media’s Pacific Magazines the other one.

Instead, NewsLife Media said it would be focusing on readership metrics and digital audience numbers.

NewsLifeMedia titles include the likes of Taste, Delicious and Donna Hay. Bauer titles include Australian Women’s Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Gourmet Traveller, NW and Woman’s Day.

The major two readership systems are survey-based – relying on asking a sample of consumers which titles they recall reading in a given period.

The long-established Roy Morgan Research readership survey has been previously criticised for not being particularly transparent wiht its methodology. And in more recent years, Australia’s newspaper publishers came together to fund the creation of the EMMA metric, run by research company Ipsos.

Critics argue that readership surveys can tend to over-report, particularly where a masthead title is well known.

Josanne Ryan, AMAA

AMAA boss Josanne Ryan: “We are disappointed that the lead magazine groups have made a decision to move away from providing the audited circulation data”

Today’s statement from NewsLifeMedia said: “NewsLifeMedia is committed to providing an independent and comprehensive measurement of its magazine brands total audience across print and digital. Readership provides a deeper understanding of customers and allows for more detailed targeting to identify the audiences that matter for advertisers and media buyers.”

The statement quoted NewsLifeMedia boss Nicole Sheffield as saying: “Magazine brands today are consumed across many platforms including print, digital, social and events. The audience that our brands talk to is growing significantly and to reflect this, our measurement must give a complete audience picture.

“There are so many measures of our industry and it can be confusing and costly. After undertaking this review we have determined that the focus should be on our total audience and not sales. This is the metric that our advertisers and media buyers use to make their buying decisions and evaluate performance across other main media.

“We have always been transparent with our measures and circulation alone no longer reflects the breadth and depth of the brand reading audience. The reality is, if you look at other media, we don’t count the number of TV sets in a home as a measure of TV audience or outdoor billboards as a measure of outdoor audience.”

However, the boss of the AMAA Josanne Ryan issued a statement saying she was disappointed by the decision and warning that the organisation was the most trusted by marketers and agencies. She said:

“In a digital-first world it’s understandable that the magazine publishers are focused on multi-channel audience metrics.

“Print continues to form a key part of this audience network with audited circulation being a measure of the primary purchaser, and as such represents the primary reader of the print channel.

“Independent research by the AMAA confirmed that the ABC Audited Circulation data was rated by marketers and agencies as the most trusted metric ahead of all other third party audience metrics.

“We are disappointed that the lead magazine groups have made a decision to move away from providing the audited circulation data, however it is now up to marketers and agencies to determine what data points they require to ensure they have trusted metrics on which to invest advertising.

“The AMAA will continue to work with members to provide verification solutions for their brands, along with our work across multiple channels and supporting accountability and transparency in the media trading ecosystem.”

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