Globe & Mail plays dirty pool in a recent article on newspaper readership

I read an interesting article this morning from the Globe & Mail in which is announces that readers are not giving up on newspapers. As a former director of Circulation Sales & Service for a local daily, I read this article and had a chuckle about some of the things that were mentioned. This article had more to do with taking a jab at a competitor than truly addressing the state of newspaper print readership.

First off the Globe just had to mention the fact that the Toronto Star gave out a whole whack of free copies during the Olympics and while they did free sampling of their own newspaper, it was at a much lower number. Obviously the Globe and Toronto Star are in competition for readers so they decided to take a potshot at the Toronto Star’s sampling programs and pretend that its important news that people absolutely need to know about. When you read between the lines, the are presenting their newspaper as a better product for readers and advertisers by taking the stance that free paper giveaways lessen the value of the product.

The other low blow came when it talked about audited reports. They make it sound like the Toronto Star’s circulation numbers are no longer audited by a reputable company.

Torstar Corp., which owns the Star, was among some high-profile publishers that left the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Star uses an organization that has different standards for how some corporate subscriptions are counted.

The Toronto Star is now audited by CCAB, the Canadian division of BPA Worldwide. This company was founded in 1931 by a group of advertisers, publishers and agencies to report and audit circulation statements for a variety of publications. They currently service over 2,600 publications and media properties worldwide. In my opinion this is a better auditing company because they are constantly evolving in order to adapt to the challenges publications are facing due to the increased popularity of the Internet while still making valuable information available to advertisers and media agencies. Having gone through multiple audits by the staff at CCAB, I can attest to the fact that they do perform in depth analysis of your circulation figures, have stringent reporting guidelines, and will definitely track down and penalize anything that is not above board.

Free sample copies and corporate sponsored newspapers have been going on for decades and is an integral part of a company’s promotional effort. It increases revenue, readership and helps present the product to potential subscribers. This is not a bad thing and will help the newspaper business continue operating a print medium.

It’s interesting that they mentioned free newspapers but didn’t mention the Toronto Star’s incredible Newspapers In Education (NIE) program. This is probably the best of its kind in Canada and offers classrooms free newspapers and teaching aids to the educators that are involved. These are typically corporate sponsored and I suspect that a portion of the “100,000 free or cheap copies” were put in the hands of Canadian youth to teach them about taking pride in their nation’s athletes.

I always lose respect for publications when they take potshots at competitors and disguise it as news. When I worked in the industry I always voiced my dislike of “dirty pool” tactics such as these. Concentrate on your own business and promotional programs and let your competitor’s do the same.

I shall now step off my soapbox!

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