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News Corp withdraws from newspaper circulation audit, raising new questions about future of AMAA

News Corp Australia has abruptly withdrawn its newspapers from being audited by the Audited Media Association of Australia, dealing a near fatal blow to the future of print circulation audits in Australia.

In future News Corp will argue that advertisers should look to Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA) which was created by the newspaper industry in 2013 to promote readership numbers, rather than circulation, as the key metric.

EMMA is run by research company Ipsos under the auspices of trade body NewsMediaWorks’ sister organisation Readership Works. Based on asking survey questions, EMMA offers data including audience demographics, media consumptions, lifestyles, psychographics, and product and service usage and attitudes.

News Corp is Australia’s largest newspaper publisher with mastheads including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the Herald-Sun in Melbourne and Courier Mail in Brisbane as well as a string of local and regional titles.

According to News Corp, the decision follows a consultation with advertisers and media agencies. It claimed: “The decision to use EMMA as the primary measurement metric follows an extensive review with more than 100 advertisers and media agencies that highlighted that the existing print circulation metric is no longer a representative measure of today’s cross-platform audiences.”

Miller: Claims engagement across platforms, not circulation, should be primary metric

Michael Miller, News Corp Australia’s executive chairman, argued that circulation was not an indicator of how media is consumed.

Supporters of circulation audits argue that providing third party verification that publishers actually circulate the number of copies they say they do is an important safeguard for advertisers.

“Media buyers and advertisers plan media based on the audience that engages with our mastheads, not the number of papers sold,” Miller argued.

“Total audience is the chosen metric that our advertisers and media buyers now use to make their media buying decisions and to compare alternatives across all main media, so it’s a natural course of action for us to meet the market by using one, primary metric,” he explained.

The AMAA confirmed it had been contacted by News Corp with the news over the weekend but couldn’t comment further until its board had discussed the move.

News Corp’s decision to withdraw from the audit comes almost a year after the company’s magazine arm NewsLife Media withdrew its magazines from the audit, followed by publishers Bauer Media and Pacific Magazines. The coordinated actions effectively killed the magazine audit. In August this year, an additional four independent magazines withdrew, arguing that nobody was left.

However until today, News Corp, Fairfax Media and Seven West Media’s print mastheads had remained in the newspaper audit.

Mumbrella understands that where required by advertisers, News Corp will provide a publishers statement, audited by one of the accountancy firms.

According to the most recent half yearly figures – which covered the period from January to June 2017 – The Sunday Telegraph’s average circulation fell below 400,000 for the first time, Melbourne’s Sunday Herald Sun fell below 350,000 to a circulation of 349,252 and Queensland’s Sunday Mail dipped below 300,000 for the first time, with a circulation of 289,888, down 10%.

Saturday’s newspapers also witnessed declines, with Herald Sun’s circulation just above 300,000 – at 306,371 compared to a circulation of 335,232 in the corresponding period, down 9.3%.

The Daily Telegraph maintained second place among the Saturday editions, with reported a circulation of 221,996, down from 233,546, at the same time last year and  The Weekend Australian fell below 220,000, with January to June figures reporting a circulation of 219,242.

While Daily Telegraph maintained second place on the among the Saturday editions, it reported a circulation of 221,996, down from 233,546, at the same time last year.

News Corp’s national newspaper also slipped slightly on the Monday to Friday figures, reporting a circulation of 94,448 compared to 99,027 at the same time the previous year.

Across News Corp’s metro newspapers, the biggest decline came from News Corp’s Northern Territory News, down 14.1% year on year to 11,279.  Herald Sun remained the top selling Monday to Friday publication, however its circulation was down to 303,140, a 9.1% loss from last year’s 330,766.

The Daily Telegraph fell below 230,000 for the first time – to 221,641.

Mumbrella understands that Fairfax Media is considering its own position but has no immediate plans to withdraw. Seven West Media – which publishes The West Australian and Sunday Times in Perth – has been contacted for comment.

On the decision, Miller added: “As the industry’s independent and accredited cross-platform audience insights survey, Emma provides the most complete picture of readership today.

“We have therefore decided to adopt Emma as our primary audience metric, given that it captures total audience – not just the number of copies printed and sold. Emma has the sophistication, depth, credibility and frequency to provide an accurate and complete picture of our audiences,” he said.

“Agencies and advertisers want transparency, accuracy and a higher frequency of data as well as accountability for investment, all of which Emma delivers.”

News Corp’s decision follows News Media Works chairman Peter Miller’s comments in September, when he described EMMA as the “oracle” for what advertisers should be doing with their ad spend.

UPDATE 10:35am Tuesday: 

A spokesperson for Seven West Media has said: “WAN, publisher of The West Australian and The Sunday Times has confirmed that it will continue with the ABC and is expecting a strong December Audit figure reflecting its strength in the Western Australian market. A review of ongoing commitments to the ABC will be conducted early in 2018.”

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