executives at Cirrus Media were running for cover this week following the release of the syndicated medical readership research,the benchmark by which media buyers measure the medical publishers
Cirrus, which owns the two major weekly GP titles, Medical Observer and Australian Doctor , first embargoed the research ‘to look for a bug in the research’ that had eaten large a hole in their normally dominant readership figures. Then reports started to emerge that they had started saying that their readership had dropped a little because of ‘the march of digital’. The market waited to see how bad it might be. It was bad. “An unmitigated disaster”, is how one medical publisher put it.” You can’t explain that sort of a drop away by pointing the finger at digital. They had 30 or so years of very steady and very high print readership. Something went wrong over there.” The drop in Average Issue Readership (AIR) was 15.2% for Medical Observer and just over 11% for Australian Doctor. The biggest single drop by a title prior to this in any one year is in the realms of 5.5% according to the publisher. Both titles are largely controlled circulation and until early this year, Cirrus had used the lists of the Australian Medical Publishing Company (Ampco), owned by the AMA to distribute. “Our list is generally recognised as the one with the most continuity and integrity”, said David Kelly, Ampco’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “But Cirrus, now owning both weekly titles, decided earlier in the year to go it alone”, he said. Other changes Cirrus reportedly made to their print offerings during the year included restructuring and merging the editorial teams of the two competing newspapers, a reduction in editorial staff on the print side of the business, reductions in circulation and most recently, they tested mailing both titles in the same plastic bag, something which some clients claim they had no knowledge about. “Its not exactly a double blind experiment on digital effectiveness versus print when you screw around with your print like that”, said another executive from the sector. “If they go out with the argument that their digital rocks and is kicking in I think they are going get a few clients who will ask for their money back on last years sprint schedules and a reduction on this years rates equivalent to their readership drop.” The Misfits, which owns B&T, has just this week launched a medical division, The Medical Republic Group, which includes a new fortnightly tabloid newspaper.