Latest ABC figs show Globe ahead, Post making gains

So who's winning the national newspaper wars? With both the National Post and Globe and Mail claiming victory within the editorial of their own papers after the last round of ABC figures, it still seems to depend on who you ask....

So who’s winning the national newspaper wars? With both the National Post and Globe and Mail claiming victory within the editorial of their own papers after the last round of ABC figures, it still seems to depend on who you ask.

According to the interim Audit Bureau of Circulations averages for the six months ending March 31, 2001, the Post’s total paid circulation has jumped substantially both Monday-to-Friday and for its Saturday edition. (All figures in the latest report are based on publishers’ statements – the audited statement comes out in the fall for the year ending Sept. 30.)

Over at the Globe, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that the national’s total paid weekday circulation appears to have dropped since an interim December 2000 audit put its weekday circ at 368,857 and Saturday circ at 405,732 (the Globe wasn’t a member of the ABC at this time last year, so comparable figures aren’t available). The good news is that the latest figures show the Globe is still in the lead. As well, both the December audit and March figures show gains over the last KPMG audit, undertaken in 1999 before the Globe jumped to the ABC.

Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of the Globe, brought the paper back into the ABC fold last April. He allows that NADbank is what media buyers tend to look more closely at because of its richer information, but says the ABC audit better illustrates the quality of a paper’s circulation – the ratio of paid and bulk copies.

‘Traditionally for the Globe, half of its circulation is on subscription. It’s sort of our loyal core. We’ve concentrated on that and sort of reduced the bulk on discounted sale copies in that period and we’ve taken that number down quite deliberately.’

Over at the Post, VP of reader sales and service Craig Barnard admits that a lot of his paper’s growth came via bulk copies, but notes that ‘our corporate bulk is no higher than the Globe’s corporate bulk on this last statement.’

He’s also quick to counter criticism that the Post is practically giving papers away to boost the numbers. ‘Let me make very clear that we are not giving any newspapers away,’ he says. ‘They are sold at a corporate bulk rate and in some cases are provided at no charge to the consumer, but somebody is paying for the newspaper.’ He adds that subscriptions charged at less than 50% of the basic rate have dropped, while the higher-priced subscriptions have grown.

So what do the buyers make of all this?

Patrick Walshe, president and COO of Carat Canada, says that total circulation is not the ultimate tool for buying newspaper and hasn’t been for quite some time.

‘The data that is really meaningful to us is NADbank. Circulation is very variable and subject to lots of interesting ups and downs based on bulk distribution and other deals. It’s almost like buying TV weight by the number of TV sets in the market.’

The ABC gets some stronger support from Sunni Boot, president of Optimedia Canada, who says it plays a very important role in the media buying process because it helps to set the stage for accessing other measurement studies.

‘ABC is the first filter in the auditing process and that first filter is: How much paid circulation is in distribution on any paper on any given day? This is the worldwide gold standard for measuring base circulations.’