In 2005, Canberra Times editor-in-chief Jack Waterford corresponded with Crikey about newspaper circulation rorts:

All newspapers, including The Canberra Times, offer discounts for regular subscribers, and as incentives to begin taking a subscription. Nothing wrong with that, why should not steady readers be rewarded? But the nature of some offers by some newspapers to some groups invite the question of whether they are simply padding their figures rather than genuinely making sales…


On most Australian newspapers advertising revenue is at least 50% greater than circulation revenue; on some it exceeds circulation revenue four to one. That explains why some newspapers are prepared to effectively give away their product to some classes of buyers.

But the bigger the rorts, the more cynical many advertisers become.

The cynicism is still justified. In fact, even after changes to the Audit Bureau of Circulation rules in 2006, it’s more justified than ever.

Crikey has obtained an internal Fairfax email from 2007 that reveals just how much advertisers can be short-changed by circulation murkiness. As one national advertising figure tells us, there’s “zero awareness” at just how many papers — and they all do it — are dumped around the country in a massive reader free-for-all. If they’re ever read at all.

For years Crikey readers have reported bundles upon bundles of papers at various locations across the country. Well we’re going to start mapping them — your guide to getting a newspaper for free. As we build it — and we need your feedback — you’ll be surprised just how freely accessible some newspapers are.

Advertisers especially.