Monday, September 04, 2006

SPH Magazines makes bold statement with audits

I had to fight from letting my emotions show through when writing today’s story on SPH Magazines getting Her World, Citta Bella and Shape audited. It was hard because I have to maintain objectivity while being overwhelmed by the fantastic news.

Read the article ‘SPH Magazines audit Her World, Citta Bella and Shapehere.

Great work SPH Magazines!

This move by SPH Mags is no small step. It deserves to be lauded and rewarded for taking a stance which in the long run, is great for advertisers, agencies and for the magazine publishing industry.

Marketing's views regarding circulation auditing are no secret. No other publication has been as active as Marketing has been in exposing the massive fraud in Singapore's magazine publishing industry and encouraging debate on circulation auditing.

Some articles on the topic are as follows:
Advertisers vote for Singapore publications to get audited – Poll
MDA, MICA say no to industry call to end magazine publishing rip-offs
Industry pros disagree with MICA, MDA’s audit inaction: Poll

Our at times confrontational and in-your-face approach at encouraging Singapore publishers to make their figures accountable has earned us both supporters and detractors.

We’re not going to hide our delight at this announcement and we sincerely look forward to more of such.

All but one of SPH’s newspapers are already audited – save for the newly launched My Paper. What’s left is 13 more titles in SPH Magazine’s stable and a bunch under the Blu Inc banner.

Keep it up SPH.

ACP, Eastern Publishing, MediaCorp Publishing, MediaCorp Press, Sun Business Network and the hundreds of other smaller publishers in Singapore -- it's your move.


Discoroach said...

Now this really IS interesting ... some many questions ...

Now that we can believe the circulations of Her World, Citta Bella and shape, does that mean that the claimed circulations of all the other SPH magazines are officially a load of rubbish?

Now that SPH has demostrated how easy it is for any publisher to get their magazines audited, how will the other non-audited publishers fight off the inevitable accusations that they're lying about the circulations of their mags?

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of fraud and corruption in this part of the media industry?

Will advertisers demand rebates when they discover that the true circulations of the magazines they've been advertising in for years are less than half what the publishers have been claiming?

I love this stuff!

RS said...

Obviously very controversial - but does anyone really know of specific instances of overstating of circulation? Is discoroach's assertion that circulation might be half what is claimed accurate?

Anyone have any horror stories to share?

Discoroach said...

The true details regarding per issue copy sales and total circulation are a closely guarded secret in the vast majority of publishing companies for obvious reasons - most of them are fudging their circulations.

Their staff don't even know the full story! At the last Singapore Magazine Publishers Association function, the editor of Cleo, Corinne Ng, was adamant that Cleo was audited. She was wrong, of course.

A friend of mine worked as head of ad sales at one of Singapore's major magazine publishing companies and he tells me a great story. One day he was walking down the corridor and he bumped into the finance manager who had only started recently. The finance guy looked really happy and he said "gee, you must be really happy with the newsstand sales figures from last month" and proceeded to tell him the copy sales of last month's issue of their leading women's title. It was less than half the circulation number quoted in the media kit.

But I guess this is all hearsay so let's just have a look at some facts:

1. Her World's pre-audit claimed circulation: 70,000. Real (audited) circulation: 62,529. An overstatement of 12%.

2. Citta Bella's pre-audit claimed circulation: 30,000. Real (audited) circulation: 21,191. An overstatement of 42%.

3. Shape's pre-audit claimed circulation: 40,000. Real (audited) circulation: 28,657. An overstatement of 40%.

4. FHM's last audited circulation in 2004 (when it was published by Emap): 35,604. Current claimed circulation: 54,000. A stunning 52% increase. Almost unbelievable, in fact.

5. Cleo's last audited circulation in 2003: 55,704. Current claimed circulation: 62,000. An increase of 11%. Is that an overstatement? What do you think?

So here are three blatant instances of a major magazine publisher overstating the circulations of its magazines and two instances that are worthy of further investigation.

But the scary thing is that this is all we know. What about all the other magazines in the market?

The truth is that we have absolutely no idea about their real circulations. Some of them might be true figures, most of them are probably lies. The problem is that we just don't know who's ripping us off and by how much.