‘Save B&T’: Former publisher urges title to return to AMAA audit for brand credibility

Former Misfits Media partner Jeremy Knibbs has called on his former publication B&T to return to the Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA), to ensure brand credibility and transparency.

Knibbs has a long-term association with B&T, having been part of the publication’s parent group Misfits Media before leaving just over a year ago, and before that being CEO of the magazine’s previous owner Reed Business Information for more than a decade.

In a lengthy post published on LinkedIn,  Knibbs said B&T’s decision to withdraw from the audit meant clients would not have independently verifiable data to assess reach and make judgements on advertising costs for the title.

B&T says it isn’t interested in Knibbs’ opinion

The decision by B&T to exit the audit has left AdNews as the last remaining media and marketing industry print title to have its circulation verified under the AMAA’s CAB (Circulations Audit Board) metric. The audit aims to give advertisers third party verification that the publisher is circulating the number of copies of an edition that it claims. AdNews does not audit its digital audience.

Misfits Media’s exit from the print audit follows the coordinated departures from the AMAA’s paid circulation audits by Bauer Media, Pacific Magazines and News Life Media last December.

In a post on LinkedIn, Knibbs said leaving the CAB audit and the AMAA as a business-to-business media group suggested the company was “not prepared to be transparent” with clients and how many print editions are distributed.

“Some publishers do make this decision. I’m sure it is a hard decision to make. Invariably they are choosing to blur information to their advertisers which isn’t an easy business path for a publisher to take if they’ve audited for years,” Knibbs wrote.

B&T should return to the audit, argues Knibbs

“But if you are a publisher who covers the media business and you do it, you are taking a massive gamble surely. Where is your authority to write anything about the media industry going forward if you don’t follow the unwritten rules of good media?

“A CAB audit for a single print title publishing only six times per year costs about $500. A very small sum for advertiser peace of mind.”

He said while he understood the “feeble” reason – readership is a more relevant measure – for consumer publishers to exit the audit, the same could not be said for trade titles.

Knibbs went on to point out B&T’s last recorded circulation figure is 16,000 but they use the CAB logo to state the last audited circulation is 14,951 – which was from early 2016.

“So B&T has used the audit organisation brand but didn’t end up auditing in the period it used that brand to sell ads, for more than a year. Its last year of circulation, therefore, has no independent or credible verification. We just have to trust them, retrospectively.

“They would be leaving themselves wide open by exiting audits in this manner if they haven’t distributed what they advertised. A smart client just needs to request their print or mailing invoices from the period and if they refuse to provide it, then the gig is up,” he wrote.

He also hit out at the AMAA, saying the organisation needs to close its loopholes.

“They should make it a part of an audit contract that if you exit and have been using their logo to advertise an ‘audited circulation’, then you need to prove the circulation for the period you used the logo – even if you leave. Or suffer the consequences,” he said.

“People like to dismiss the AMAA and print these days as not significant. But how is this any different to the issues of trust that are now swirling around digital advertising transparency?

“Publishers blurring transparency on print distribution data is as bad as programmatic vendors attempting to say there has been no issue. They look like dinosaurs because they are acting like dinosaurs. And when the media acts like dinosaurs we get treated like dinosaurs,” he added.

Knibbs said he did not believe B&T’s print edition would be a major proportion of their income, but said the publication was not dead and the owners could rescue the brand should they wish.

“It is still a good brand. It has a strong heritage and still has lots of followers,” he said.

“They can join the AMAA again, and declare their circulation properly to their advertisers and the market. They would wear a bit of shit initially for this maybe, but potentially far more admiration for admitting they have been wrong. Which I think they have been. And taking a leadership role. Something media is in short supply of at the moment when it comes to credibility on transparency.

“Save B&T. Restore its AMAA audit. And its brand credibility.”

In the same piece, Knibbs also challenged the magazine’s panel of industry advisers to show an interest. He wrote: “The 2017 B&T media kit has no less than 24 industry luminaries, listed on their editorial board in this same media kit. They include people like Russel Howcroft [PwC], Adam Ferrier [Thinkerbell], James Leggett [M&C Saatchi], Peter Horgan [OMD] and Nicole Sheffield [News Corp]. They are selling B&T by being in their media kit. They are endorsing the B&T brand.”

He asked: “Does this board think it is OK that B&T, which they are promoting through their endorsement, thinks that auditing media distribution is no longer necessary these days? ”

But David Hovenden, editor in chief of B&T and CEO of The Misfits Media Company told Mumbrella the company had “zero interest” in the opinions of Knibbs.

Print is now sold on passion not reach, according to B&T

“We saw no value in remaining within the print audit. Not one advertiser has asked us about our CAB number in years,” Hovenden said.

“Print is now sold on passion, not reach and frequency. Our online audit has had a technical issue caused by the AMAA’s change to its measurement, which was frustrating for us as we continue to enjoy strong traffic.

“We expect to be back [in the digital audit] next month. The Misfits has enjoyed its most successful year ever in 2017.”

Knibbs’ full post can be read here. 

Declaration of interest: Several members of Mumbrella’s staff are former B&T staffers.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.