These days, when I go for my run in the morning, everything hurts.
I can see from the bemused looks on the faces of the people I pass on the street that there is an air of incomprehension, and more than a degree of well-meaning concern. Why doesn’t he just give up? Why is he punishing himself like that?
When the ABC recently published their Q4 2022 circulation figures I felt pretty much the same way as those bystanders.
Why do they keep punishing themselves like that?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a devotee to the fundamental principle – No ABC, No Business – but the level of detail in an ABC dataset is staggering and at times incomprehensible to those accustomed to clickable real time reporting. For instance the Daily Maverick, which is published online and in print format on a Saturday (as DM168), is neither a Hybrid Newspaper anymore nor is it a Weekend title. It is now categorised by ABC as a Weekly Newspaper.
On reflection this anomaly actually makes sense. In 2022, any media platform that doesn’t self-identify as hybrid needs to start planning for obsolescence. Maybe that’s why they keep punishing themselves. Planned obsolescence.
Worth the effort
If the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) or the PRC spent even just a little time explaining to the industry what an ABC certificate is, and how it can be used to distinguish legitimate publishers from the tyrannosaurus in digital clothing, it might still just be worth the effort.
But to be honest, the average media planner today doesn’t know the difference between print-order, distribution and circulation. And yes I still use the term ‘media planner’, so you can put me on the naughty step with Roald Dahl if you must.
What then is the picture which emerges from the Q4 2022 ABC dataset? One word.
The downward trend continues in every category with only two exceptions. Free Newspapers and Hybrid newspapers.
Why is it then that the newspaper sector seems least impacted with an average decrease of only -2.3%, against a total circulation declines of 2,9%? How can all those declines equate to only a -2.9% decline? Simple answer. The Leahy Factor. Weighted Averages. Over 80% of the total circulation of newspapers can be attributed to distribution of free local newspapers. And the growth sector – Hybrid Newspapers – only accounts for 1% of total circulation.
Sadly an ABC circulation is no longer a measure of a publication’s health. Merely a measure of the publisher’s ability to print more copies. And that’s the real challenge for publishers at the end of the day. In fact the universal media challenge.
If I can’t sell my product how can I monetise it?
If you don’t believe me just ask Elon Musk.
Gordon Muller is Africa’s oldest surviving media strategist. Author of Media Planning – Art or Science. Mostly harmless! Read his Khulumamedia Blog here.