Ed's Letter - Aug 07
Accountability in publishing
It is appalling the state of publications auditing in Singapore is. This month, Marketing magazine put together a special feature on the preferred newspapers in Singapore and the region to advertise in, as voted by decisionmakers in marketing and advertising (page 48). In collating facts to illustrate the story, one of the most important data we wanted to collect was that of the newspapers' audit status - whether they are audited or not; and if so, by which audit body; and for how many copies.
While it was fairly tedious verifying the numbers with the respective newspapers, it was surprising to say the least when a communications representative from a particular newspaper insisted the figures she gave us for circulation were audited - by Ernst & Young.
If you didn't notice anything amiss in the above sentence, then you definitely require a lesson or two in media auditing 101, because whilst Ernst & Young provides auditing services, those are of the business nature and not of the media circulations kind. In fact, the only circulations auditors recognised in Singapore are the Audit Bureau of Circulations Singapore (ABC) and BPA Worldwide.
Additionally, some media owners do not seem to well understand the role of the ABC, and have been reported to frown upon the special audit which new luxury magazine entrant Lexean undertook early this year. Lexean wanted to gain advertiser trust for its bold 100,000 subscriber claim so it requested for ABC to conduct a one-off audit on its first edition, and which ABC delivered as a service to the industry - the exact reason for its existence. Read page 14 for more on this.
A wise media professional once told me 70 to 80% of all publications in the UK and US are audited while in comparison, less than 0.1% of publications in Singapore are. In the US and UK, before media buyers request rate cards from media owners, they first request to see their audit certificates. Another experienced media agency hand also mentioned with the regional publications which distribute in Singapore, local media agencies fervently request proof of audit - a vastly different practice is observed when these same agencies consider local titles.
Without sounding preachy, it has to be said that auditing is, according to the ABC, to ensure circulation claims are authentic and comparable, enable the accurate evaluation of media and aid the buying and selling of advertising space. I don't see how advertising purchasing decisions are made when the only basis of comparison between publications is what is printed on their media kits.
Change cannot be effected overnight and marketers may have to contend with somewhat blind investments but the truth is the wheels are turning in favour of auditing and we're proud to be part of the revolution.
- BPA Worldwide
- Viscion Media Group
- Audit Bureau of Circulations