Massaging circulation figures?

I was surprised to see a friend toting a Murdoch tabloid around in her car, and learned that it had come free with her earlier emergency drive-through caffeine+muffin hit from a McDonald’s. It seems that everybody gets one now when they order a meal.

Does this sort of giveaway get counted in the “official” circulation figures? Does anybody know?

Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, media


9 replies

  1. Yep. Crikey did a series a couple of years ago on such shenanigans. Staff room in my kid’s school always has a huge stack of Canberra Times for the same reason.

  2. The (Murdoch tabloid) also did a ‘oh, look! We’re so nice we’re sending you 30 extra papers over the week leading up to ANZAC Day to your school, every day, including Saturday’ stunt. When we said we didn’t need or want them, they told us: ‘well, that’s how things are’ and sent them anyway. To every school, afaik, in the state.
    They’re similarly advertising the McDonalds stunt inside the paper: “The good news is you get a free paper. The bad news is it’s won’t last very long”.
    What are they *actually* getting out of these? The ability to say a ‘circulation of blah’ to make them look better?

  3. Go to most cultural events in inner city Melbourne and you can expect to get a free copy of The Age along with your entrance. I think Starbucks give out copies with every purchase as well.

  4. Both the New Zealand Herald and the Dominion Post in NZ do the same thing, distributing a few thousand copies every day to the local universities. I’m pretty sure it does get added to at least their readership totals, if not circulation.

  5. Yes. They’re included in official circulation figures compiled by the semi-official body which ‘validates’ them. When I worked for a magazine publisher in the UK I was told that large numbers were “exported” to Europe for sale but were actually dumped in the north sea to make circulations look higher, because the circulation figures are what the salespeople use to sell ad space in the publications (ie. why would I put an add in your magazine X-factor when your rival X-plus covers the same market but reaches more people and charges less per inch).

  6. There was a stage in the UK when you got a free bottle of water with a paper (I think The Independent), and the paper cost less than the bottle of water. So more people were genuinely buying the paper, just not necessarily because they wanted to read it.
    .-= Kirstente´s last blog ..Think happy thoughts! Happy thoughts! =-.

  7. A friend (who owns a business conducting school tours at one of the Sydney papers) explained this to me once. Readership and circulation are different in that circulation requires actual payment for the paper. The key phrase in this “giveaway” arrangement would be “free today with your movie/gallery/concert ticket”. While I might argue that I didn’t pay for the paper, just the ticket, the counter argument could be that the cost of the paper is included in the cost of the ticket. And so the paper I pick up gets counted in circulation, along with all the others that are assumed to have been collected but were probably trashed.
    It seems as if the newspapers are getting quite desperate to prove that they are still viable in print, in the face of significant growth in internet news readership.

  8. “What are they *actually* getting out of these? The ability to say a ‘circulation of blah’ to make them look better?”
    For “to make them look better”, read “so that they can charge more for ads”.

  9. It’s funny, if they’re all doing it, it won’t actually give them an advantage, but of course they can’t stop doing it now that they all are, because stopping would disadvantage them.
    Oh world, how messed up you are.

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