WAN bogus circulation data

The World Association of Newspapers announced their new World Press Trends at the World Editors Forum in Göteborg. Total paid circulation has risen with no less than 2.57 percent, and with 9.39 percent over the last five years. When free newspapers are included, global circulation increased with 3.65 percent in 2007, and with 14.3 percent over the past five years.

Crisis? What crisis?

Within these encouraging data, however, there are some odd figures popping up. At the end of the press release, WAN gives a list of the free dailies with the highest circulation:

“Leggo in Italy (1.95 million copies), Metro in the United Kingdom (1.37 million copies), 20 Minutos in Spain (1 million copies), Metro in Canada (990,000 copies), and Que! and ADN in Spain (959,000 copies each).”

In fact, the Leggo circulation is only half of this, as can be read on the Leggo webpage (click on ‘chi siamo‘ on the upper right side) – Italian for beginners: “passed the historic wall of a million copies”:

“Oggi “Leggo” è presente in 15 città ed ha superato lo storico muro del milione di copie (a partire dal 18 aprile) e di oltre 2 milioni di lettori, certificati dall’Audipress nel 2007.”

The data for Metro UK, 20 Minutos, Qué! and ADN are correct, but with Metro Canada WAN is almost 200,000 copies off the mark as can be seen on the Metro homepage: 815,000 instead of 990,000 copies – in 2007 Halifax was not launched yet so 790,000 is the number for that year.

With these six titles only WAN is already inflating the total circulation with 1.1 million. I have not seen the total report yet, but given these errors, I fear there must be more of these.

In previous years the WAN report also had the curious habit of counting titles twice after a name change, which also inflated circulation. This happened for the UK in the 2006 report where both Standard Lite and its successor London Lite were counted in total circulation. Because also one Irish free daily (Herald AM) was in the UK list and one American, total UK free circulation was inflated with 200,000.

The problems with the data are not limited to free dailies. Paid circulation seems to go up only in countries without reliable audited circulation data (China, India, South-America, Austria, Bulgaria, Moldova, Montenegro, Ukraine etc.).

Under normal circumstances this should lead to very careful use of these data, but in a business so desperate for good news, apparently ‘anything goes’ as long if it’s good news.

7 Responses to “WAN bogus circulation data”

  1. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Tuesday squibs Says:

    [...] industry. Chris Anderson muses on stats released by the World Association of Newspapers. But… Piet Bakker calls into question the figures WAN is reporting, and you just can’t ignore one of the realities of some of the [...]

  2. Piet Bakker Says:

    Soon I will provide some alternative data on free circulation and try to explain the differences between the methods that are being applied.

  3. Tom Says:

    Very Very good post Piet! Finally someone speaks out.

  4. Window on the Media » 10 raisons d’être un journaliste joyeux Says:

    [...] Un voile d’angoisse s’abat lentement sur le journalisme. Alors qu’ils ressemblaient à Clark Kent et à Tintin pendant leur jeunesse, les journalistes sont maintenant considérés comme des Alexis Debat en puissance. La confiance s’effrite.  Les licenciements tombent, les deadlines se rapprochent et les tâches s’accumulent. L’atmosphère de la profession s’alourdit. Pour se rassurer, certains n’hésitent plus à falsifier les chiffres de circulation. [...]

  5. 10 reasons (or more) to be a jolly journalist « Online Journalism Blog Says:

    [...] June 6, 2008 A thick veil of gloom is slowly blanketing journalism. From resembling Clark Kent and Tintin in their youth, journalists now look more like Jason Blairs, untrustworthy information distorters. Layoffs, shorter deadlines and declining ad revenues are adding to the pessimism of the trade. To feel better, some of them even fake readership data. [...]

  6. LSDI : Dieci (o più) ragioni per essere un giornalista allegro Says:

    [...] atmosfera della professione si appesantisce. Per rassicurarsi, alcuni non esitano persino a  falsificare i dati della diffusione.  E invece, andando controcorrente, l’ équipe dell’ Online Journalism Blog [...]

  7. Newspaper Innovation » Blog Archive » Free newspaper circulation Says:

    [...] the beginning of June I wrote about the World Association of Newspapers 2007 circulation data. In their list of the six [...]