Telegraph withdraws from ABC circulation audit

Telegraph Media Group (TMG) has pulled out of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) newspaper circulation audit, which it said “is not the key metric” behind the measurement of its success.

The Telegraph now has more digital than print subscribers
The Telegraph now has more digital than print subscribers

The latest ABC figures published yesterday (16 January), showed that the Daily Telegraph had an average circulation of 317,817 last month while the Sunday Telegraph recorded a figure of 248,288. This represented a 12% decline for both titles compared with December 2018.

In a statement also released yesterday, TMG said: “The ABC results published, today, January 16th, are the final set of ABC results Telegraph Media Group will take part in.

“Whilst they do show that the Telegraph remains the highest selling quality newspaper, by circa 8,000 copies a day, the ABC metric is not the key metric behind our subscription strategy and not how we measure our success.”

As part of its new strategy, the group said it would instead publish its core subscriber numbers each month for the first time, with the aim to reach 10 million registered users and one million paying subscribers by 2023.

“We are delighted with the progress that we have made to futureproof our journalism to thrive long term, delivering a transformation whilst maintaining profitability,” the publisher said.

“The group is focused on a subscriber-first strategy underpinned by long-term investment in The Telegraph’s digital transformation.

“This is evidenced by the number of paying subscribers and registrants since we switched to a paywall format and registered-access model two years ago, whilst maintaining a very healthy ARPS (average revenue per subscription).”

It added: “Our subscriber readership – where we develop a habitual and paid relationship with our subscribers over and above the casual reader – is growing each month. This is a testament to the quality of our journalism.

“As of December 2019, we now have more digital subscriptions than print subscriptions. In 2019 we saw a growth of 44% in volume of digital subscriptions.

“We will be transparent with our core subscriber numbers which are omni-channel and we will communicate these numbers each month. We will share both volumes and average revenue per subscription.”

The publisher said that in December 2019 it had 423,311 subscriptions across print and digital, made up of 213,868 digital subscribers and 209,443 print subscribers, with an ARPS of £194.

It added the subscriptions and ARPS totals are independently assured by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. The last audit took place for the period ending December 2019 and the next audit will take place in March 2020.

ABC chief executive Simon Redlich said the move was “clearly disappointing”

“We understand the Telegraph’s wish to promote their growing subscription numbers across print and digital, but believe that doing so via an industry-agreed ABC standard would be the best route.

"We see it as a straightforward development of current reporting and remain open to working with the Telegraph, as with all publishers, on developing metrics which support their strategies.”

Paul Bainsfair, director general at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), meanwhile, said the organisation was “extremely concerned” by the move.

“ABC is an industry supported JIC and as such produces trusted, independent and transparent data which is essential for newsbrands trading.

“We know our members strongly support the independent, agreed JIC standards of ABC and a separate audit from elsewhere, which may not be in the public domain, does not give them the same confidence needed to support advertising expenditure.

“We urge the Telegraph to reconsider their approach and work within ABC to achieve their strategic aims.”

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