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Nunn Media's Chris Walton: 'We strongly recommend staying in the audit'

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Nunn Media’s Chris Walton: ‘We strongly recommend staying in the audit’

For smaller publishers thinking about following the lead of Australia’s big three and their withdrawal from the ABC audit late last year, Managing Director of media agency Nunn Media Chris Walton has some stern advice: don’t.

“We strongly recommend staying in the audit,” he says. “I've seen first-hand the direct impact it has had on the amount of business the consumer titles have got from our clients as a result of pulling out of the audit and not having a verified, independent, view of how many copies they sell. I think they've shot themselves in the foot by pulling out.”

Since the big three made their departure from the ABC audit, advertising dollars, Walton says, have been shifting into digital and out-of-home. While the exit from the audit isn’t the only reason for this, it has certainly played a role. For proof, Walton suggests looking to the latest Standard Media Index figures. “After some weak months, there seems to be a recovery of sorts in TV, radio, digital, cinema and outdoor. But newspapers and magazines still seem to be heading downwards,” he says.

While audited circulation is not the be all and end all, Walton believes readership alone isn’t enough for today’s publishers to demonstrate their worth to advertisers. “The methodology of measuring readership is also not watertight. That's why we use both,” he says.

The correlation of the two data points remains important and Walton says the lack of one throws the other into question. He says: “If you look at readership over the past five years or six years and then plot circulation over that same time period, you come to one of two conclusions. Either Australians are getting more generous and are sharing more of the copies that they buy themselves or the readership methodology is somehow flawed. What we're seeing now is, on a lot of titles, the readers per copy have been going up and up and up on a consistent basis for several years and you can start to feel, ‘What's going on there?’”

While this may seem like an issue for the publishers at the big end of town, it’s even more important for smaller titles, in Walton’s view. He says: “A lot of our clients deal in actualities and truths. They put a lot of weight on an audited figure. It's especially important for titles that don't have a huge distribution. Knowing 20,000 or 30,000 copies were distributed is an important metric for them to understand.”

Publishers of any size weighing up the pros and cons of being audited, Walton says this: “I know there's a cost that goes with it and I know the harsh commercial realities of trying to run a magazine. No doubt, it's not an insignificant cost but when the audit disappears, the amount of scepticism this introduces into the evaluation of those titles is quite significant.”

Date: 24 Oct 2017

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