Josanne Ryan, CEO of the Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA), has defended the group’s audited publishing measurement system after a senior News Corp executive questioned its validity in the wake of Fairfax Media’s exit from the digital subscriptions metric.
Damian Eales, News Corp’s managing director of metro and regional publishing, told The Australian that Fairfax’s move “raises the question about the validity of the whole audit process going forward — digital and print”.
“The reality is that media buyers and advertisers aren’t interested in circulation,” he said. “They plan media based on the audience that reads a paper, not the number of papers printed.”
Speaking to B&T, Ryan agreed that audience measurement is important, but believes that Eales was wrong to discredit what the audited data has provided – and still provides – to the industry.
“Audited circulation figures have been the mainstay of print for a very long time, and they are still used in agencies, and our feedback is the agencies still want them,” she said.
“One of the really interesting things that came out of our trust report that we released in May was that in terms of metrics, the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) data was rated as the most trusted because it has been around for so long, it is third-party verified, and it’s a hard data point. Readership is done by sample, so it’s not a hard piece of data.
“The fact that [News Corp’s] content is distributed through so many different platforms, I don’t think it’s really valid to say that it calls into question everything. I think that was just a bit of a broad sweep on behalf of Damian.”
As for Fairfax’s move to stop publishing audited digital subscriber numbers and go purely with their figures, Ryan described it simply as a “commercial decision” and is not reflective of the ABC data.
She also dismissed the possibility that Fairfax and News Corp could exit the AMAA altogether.
“From my discussions with Fairfax and News, they have no intention of pulling out of the print audit,” she said.
“We are evolving with them, and that’s where we’ll continue to go.”
However, Ryan admitted that the association needs to move “a bit faster” in how it changes and adapts to industry trends.
“Over the next few months you’ll see more news from us regarding changes to what we’re doing to be more around verified data, as opposed to just being known just for print auditing,” she said.
Today, the AMAA announced an update to its rules for combined print and digital circulation reporting in response to industry feedback around a desire for easier-to-understand metrics.
The new metric, ABC Total Sales, takes in the existing average net paid sales across print and digital and combines them to become one overall sales figure.
“We’ve essentially gone from six metrics to three,” Ryan said. “Digital is a 24/7 product, so there’s no need to actually report it by day of week, and that’s one of the metrics that we’ve removed.
“We also took out the term ‘masthead’ because it’s not relevant anymore – it’s very much a print term.”
Other changes include break-outs for digital formats with updated naming, while the AMAA said there will be continued transparency for packaged and overseas sales.