Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Media Industry Must Measure Up

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Media Industry Must Measure Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Gideon Spanier

THE media business does not do a good enough job of measuring its own performance. Newspapers and magazines have been particularly poor at producing meaningful circulation and readership figures that combine print and digital.

Amazingly, the British magazine industry will for the first time ever officially produce a single "headline" circulation figure encompassing both print and digital next week when new sixmonthly figures are released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Newspaper ABCs are arguably even more archaic as monthly print and digital data are still not even published on the same day.

As Mike Darcey, chief executive of News UK, parent company of The Sun and The Times, told this week's Enders Analysis media conference: "I remain mystified as to why, 15 years into the internet era, and with everyone claiming mature digital strategies, we still only ever talk about print sales."

Darcey gave the example of how The Times' print circulation has declined since 2010 but its combined paid-for print-and-tablet sale is higher than four years ago. "Imagine the music industry measuring success today through the sales of CDs alone while ignoring iTunes," he said. "Or publishers today overlooking the millions who now download books to their Kindle, rather than lift them off a bookshelf. The relentless focus on print sales alone is misleading, myopic and, I think, causes some to make strategic mis-steps."

Part of the problem is many in publishing view digital through the lens of print. For example, the digital edition of a magazine has needed to be a near-replica of the print version to be included in the ABC data. Even after next week's changes, the digital edition can only drop 5% of the articles from the print version and it can only add up to 25% of new content that differs from print (there is no restriction on video).

Critics say such a mindset stifles innovation and investment. That's because a publisher is rewarded when its digital offering mimics print with a replica PDF-style edition and is penalised when digital differs radically from print because those sales are excluded from the circulation figures. …

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