Globe returns to ABC

After a 15-year absence, The Globe and Mail is rejoining the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of The Globe, made the announcement at the Canadian Media Directors' Council annual conference in Toronto, April 5. Crawley revealed The...

After a 15-year absence, The Globe and Mail is rejoining the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of The Globe, made the announcement at the Canadian Media Directors’ Council annual conference in Toronto, April 5.

Crawley revealed The Globe’s intentions a mere week after the release of a favourable NADbank readership study and just prior to a keynote address by Conrad Black, chairman and CEO of Hollinger International, owner of upstart competitor the National Post.

In his address, Crawley said that while he still has concerns over the ABC’s circulation measurement criteria – despite recent changes – he felt The Globe could no longer avoid the pressure from the media buying community to rejoin the Bureau.

‘I have decided to argue from the inside rather than criticize from the outside,’ he said, ‘so I will be asking ABC to audit The Globe and Mail for the current six-month period ending Sept. 30.’

Crawley added that rejoining the ABC was ‘a big decision to make and we thought long and hard about it. We’re doing it from a position of strength and confidence…We just feel this enables us to have a voice as things go forward.’

Reaction from the industry was positive. Sunni Boot, president of Optimedia Canada, says she’s extremely pleased that The Globe has rejoined ABC, because it allows media planners and buyers to assess all the major Toronto papers using a consistent measure.

Bob White, senior vice-president of ABC, was understandably delighted: ‘I am a happy guy and I welcome them with open arms.’

Crawley says that although he’s not happy with the ABC’s current definition of paid circulation, it does look as though it will become the standard, since ABC in the U.S. is considering a similar change. The new definition came into force in Canada in 1998, replacing a measurement method that had been in place since 1914.

The old definition limited papers to reporting circulation as ‘paid’ only if it was sold for 50% or more of the publication’s cover price.

Under the revised guidelines, a newspaper’s total circulation is segmented into four categories: paid circulation at 50% or more of the cover price; paid circulation at less than 50% of the cover price; bulk circulation or copies sold in bulk to airlines or hotels for distribution to customers; and non-paid circulation.

Arguing that the relaxation of the ABC reporting rules has ‘devalued the currency’ of newspaper circulation numbers, Crawley says it has also cost the industry many millions of dollars in circulation revenue. Those with the deepest pockets, he maintains, can afford to market themselves at a deeply discounted price, at the expense of their competitors.

Not surprisingly, Crawley saved his most stinging criticism for the National Post: ‘Clearly, [discounts] have been the foundation for their rapid circulation growth.’

Crawley says The Globe will continue to do an independent audit in addition to the ABC’s, something that is quite common with large U.S. newspapers. For the past 15 years, the paper has been audited by KPMG.

The Toronto Star is also audited by two different bodies, ABC and the Canadian Circulations Audit Board.

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