Crikey continues to receive a steady inflow of information about how Australia’s biggest newspaper and magazine companies are falsifying their official circulation figures, following our publication of an insider’s account of the practice.

Another insider tells Crikey of some more dodgy circulation techniques:

Have a look at how the SMH and The Age double up their Friday and Saturday circulations on long weekends like Easter, where readers end up getting basically the same paper twice and the circulation rises accordingly. Also have a look at copies given away at places like museums and sports events — tens of thousands of them, all on the ABC audit.

And a reader from the west writes:

Interesting you mention dodgy circulation figures. The West now give all their staff a weekly home delivered subscription for 60c a week.

CRIKEY: The practice of staff getting deeply discounted copies of newspapers and magazines is widespread — and there’s nothing wrong with staff being encouraged to read their own publications (arguably they should get them for nothing). But the question big advertisers and their media buying agencies should ask is: do these figures appear as normal “paid” sales on the audited circulation report?

It may sound small beer – a few hundred here, a few thousand there. But watch it add up: staff copies, airline copies, hotel copies, schools copies, sponsorship copies, conference copies, café copies, free subscription copies, unrecorded newsagent returns… circulation is one of the most innovative departments in any print media company.

The big question now is: will the ACCC finally do something about the fraud on advertisers that has been going on for years, all with the knowledge of senior executives of Australia’s biggest media companies – the companies whose newspapers tell everyone else how to do the right thing.

Peter Fray

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