The media noise over the latest Fas-Fax report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations is winding down but we’re compelled to return to the story once more to explain how two changes in the way ABC compiles its report have affected the numbers.
The first change involves sponsored or bulk sales, which for the first time were not included in single copy sales calculations. Instead, these copies were tracked in the “total analyzed non-paid” category. According to Bob White, ABC's senior vice president in Canada, the change was requested by advertisers, who demanded more accountability from publishers. “They didn’t know who those magazines were going to,” White said.
The change helps to explain the large percentage drops in “newsstand” sales at magazines such as Canadian Family (60,191 copies in bulk sales from January to June 2008), Wish (46,358), Chatelaine (26,327 ) and Flare (17,641). These magazines did not necessarily sell fewer newsstand copies than last year—they weren’t selling that many newsstand copies to begin with. Instead, many of those single copies were being sold as part of bulk or sponsored deals.
The second change to the ABC report concerns verified subscriptions, which for the first time were separated from paid subscriptions at all magazines. The verified circulation numbers show that, for many titles, copies that were thought of as paid for in previous years are actually being given away for free, either through waiting rooms, hotels or to individuals on targeted lists. Several titles in the Rogers Publishing stable were among the top magazines in this category: Chatelaine (67,629 verified copies), Maclean’s (27,803), Profit (19,000), Canadian Business (14,466) and Flare (12,699). While this hasn’t necessarily affected year over year comparisons of total paid and verified circulation, it will come into play when we compile our annual list of Canada’s Top 50 revenue-generating magazines next year.
We’ll leave it there for now. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.