Circulation and readership are the two key print metrics for the industry so it was to be expected they would be a topic of conversation at last week’s Mumbrella Publish conference. I joined the day’s closing panel and the discussion quickly moved from fake news and fake views to the metrics and their accuracy.
In an environment of multiple metrics, it’s understandable that there is sometimes debate as to what each metric does and even how they work in tandem. Also as large publishers seek to provide multi-channel audience figures to validate the ‘universe’ of readers some have shifted away from the audited circulation metric.
However, the departure of Australia’s three largest magazine publishers from the circulation audit was viewed as an “appalling decision” by industry veteran Steve Allen.
Allen from media consultancy Fusion Media made the call adding that the metric was critical and without it, advertisers would need to ask some big questions of publishers. “They should be interrogating all media planners and buyers and interrogating the media. How are you measuring? What is this number you're putting in front of us? How did you collect that number?” he said.
Joining us on the panel was Chris Janz, Managing Director Australian Metro Publishing for Fairfax Media. Janz went on to say that reach and frequency were key to the newspaper business and as such, readership was a better way to gauge that. He said: “Readership as a metric is critical and there are some very strong views about the different methodologies. I have a view that there is value in a trusted metric and value in transparency around metrics and if there's work to be done, there's work to be done.”
Yet there was some confusion with the description of circulation as as a “manufacturing metric”. My point at this juncture was to clarify that copies can be printed but not sold so it’s incorrect to call it a manufacturing metric. Circulation is an audited data point to an industry agreed framework. It’s sales if it's a product that's sold or it's distribution if it's a free product.
Having worked for many years in publishing, I appreciate the importance of audience metrics and we all know that circulation alone is not the totality of exposure for a printed title. Still, it cannot be forgotten that both Roy Morgan and EMMA readership metrics are sample based, whereas circulation is not. This is the fundamental difference and why it is not an either or equation.
In fact, the value of the circulation audit is that it is a validated figure for the number of print products in circulation that have the ‘opportunity to be seen’ by the consumer. So in that sense it can arguably be called the starting point for any readership metric.
Glad we got that sorted!
Date: 24 Oct 2017
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