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Print Circulation Scandel

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I don't know if you have read the Guardian's Wall Street Journal circulation scam article of 12-October-2011 by Nick Davies or the associated 'revelations' (it has long been a print circulation 'dirty little secret') or considered the web equivalent and effect such behaviour has on ad space value be it direct sales or ad network pricing and payout.


I recommend reading the Guardian article and the additional reading links I'll post at the end. For those of you that prefer the skim summary version...


Some of the biggest newspapers in the world have been 'channel stuffing' (the web equivalent of buying traffic) on a massive scale and due to known 'flaws' (when is a flaw a feature?) in how the Audit Bureau Of Circulation (ABC) calculates 'paid' sales numbers covered over the huge slippage in real sales.


The Wall Street Journal Europe (subject of the Guardian exposé) was through a series of 'deals' effectively selling 3-million copies during 2010 at a penny each. It was an escalating practice that started back in 2008. Last year this practice accounted for 41% of 'paid' circulation, this year it appears to be 63%.


In other words, advertisers have been hugely misled as for what they were paying.


And WSJ Europe is not alone in this 'legitimate' deceptive practice - it is generally accepted that a fifth to a third of audited paid circulation is totally free. Then there is some known unknown amount that is sold just above the ABC minimum to be counted as paid.


* Like WSJ Europe, some US papers rely on deeply-discounted circulation by Rick Edmonds, Poynter, 14-October-2011.


* Three UK Papers Are Still Hooked On The Bulk Sales Drug by Roy Greenslade, paidContent.org, 17-October-2011.


I won't get into the other silliness that lies behind print circulation and advertising calculations, suffice to say there is a lot. However, do not think that the web is much better.


The initial web calculation foolishness was using 'hits', i.e. every server call, be it for html, css, images, etc. Those were the golden years, when every visit counted as 10 or even more 'hits' for each page visited. Yes, one visitor visit could be translated into hundreds, even thousands of hits.


Now we have 'unique visits'. Yup. Another foolish metric. Let me supply some reasons:

---some sites can't distinguish bots from human; some sites unique visitors are 80-90% not-real-people.

---some sites can distinguish bots from human but don't.

---some sites buy 'genuine unique' visits at pennies each.

---some sites can't segment total site visitors to individual page visitors.

---some sites can but don't.

---some sites can't qualify visitors by referer, demographic, context, etc.

---some sites can but don't.

---is it a single unique if a visitor comes via work computer, mobile, and home computer? Can you tell?



There are billions of online advertising dollars out there trying to navigate a web that is as metrics value treacherous as offline, just differently.


The cleaner and clearer and segmented your audience and site metrics the greater value your ad space. Of course the cleaner and clearer and segmented your audience and site metrics the lower the traffic you have to offer. Hmmm, back to quantity or quality...again.

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Thanks. This is really interesting.. but imagine all of the wasted paper!

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Shameful. Next they'll be cracking down on hotel circulation for all those unread copies of USA TODAY and THE NEW YORK TIMES.

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Wasted paper.




When I entered the glamorous world of banking in 1997 there was great talk of moving towards a paperless office.


When I left in 2009 we wasted more paper than ever.


Now I probably use about 1 piece of A4 a month.




And I do not waste money on papers. Although, I did buy a book last month, first in a year or so. Stephen Fry's latest autobiography. An interesting read.

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