Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Compiling Circulation Figures? Use Every Ruse; MEDIA

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Compiling Circulation Figures? Use Every Ruse; MEDIA

Article excerpt

Byline: ROY GREENSLADE

THERE is no doubt now that newspaper sales are facing an irreversible slump. But several groups are doing their best to hide the real impact from their readers and, just possibly, from advertisers.

The most spectacular example is the Daily Telegraph's use of " multiple sales" (aka bulks), meaning those copies sold at a fraction of their cost to hotels, airlines, leisure centres, fast-food outlets and railway operators, who then give them away free to their customers.

According to the ABC audit for the month of November, the Telegraph achieved an overall sale of 901,238.

Though the paper did dip below the 900,000 mark for two months during this year, it has since been doing all in its power to remain just above it, despite the clear evidence that it is - like every competitor - losing genuine buyers by the week.

In order to do so it has been increasing, month by month, its reliance on bulks. In November 2004, its bulk sales stood at 45,130. In November 2005, they had increased to 61,497. Last month they rose to an astonishing 83,294, accounting for more than nine per cent of its total sale.

I thought that was disproportionate. But then I checked its rivals and discovered that The Independent's 39,510 bulks amount to more than 15 per cent of its total and the Financial Times's UK sale of 140,975 includes more than 26 per cent bulks.

The Times and The Guardian use many fewer bulks, but they employ other circulation-boosting tricks.

Not content with having the lowest cover price among the serious dailies, The Times sells more than 100,000 copies at a discount, as well as 48,558 bulks. So its full-rate sale is 150,000 fewer than its declared "headline" circulation.

The Guardian's ploy is altogether different. It returned foreign sales of 46,356 a day during November, a little down on the same month last year, but - given its rather lacklustre foreign editions - it is a surprisingly high figure.

Again, though, it is not the leading user of "foreigns". The Financial Times, naturally, is far and away the greatest seller abroad. But it does publish special editions for each global region, as well as printing in many international locations. …

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