The long-awaited changes to the Audit Bureau of Circulation rules have finally been approved, reports B&T, and
for the first time there will be some transparency around how many of
the circulation figures involve freebies and cheap deals.

And Fairfax obviously thinks there may be some explaining – sorry “educating” – to do. B&T
quotes Fairfax in-house flak Bruce Wolpe as saying: “We will work with
the advertising industry to educate the market about the rules and the
results they generate as there will be no meaningful correlations with
this year’s circulation numbers”. Perhaps Fairfax’s recent circulation
gains are about to evaporate – or at least be seen in a new context.

The changes will take effect on July 3, and the first audit under the
new rules will be released in November for the June to September
quarter 2006.


As the place where this all started – it has been
Crikey’s campaign of some 50 stories over the past year revealing the
extent of illegal circulation rorting by Australia’s newspaper and
magazine publishers – we have to say: we’re sceptical.

Every week we get more examples of how big newspapers are rorting the
audit system (in which auditors sign off on the official circulation
figures that are the basis for advertising rates) through free “paid”
copies going to schools, universities, hotels, cinemas, gyms, sports
events, cafes, conferences and many other places. Tens of thousands a
day in the case of some major dailies.

If all those copies disappear from the paid audits, it will leave a
mighty hole in the circulations of some newspapers. That hole will
demonstrate whether the ABC’s new rules are real or as shonky as the
practices they’re designed to eradicate.