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ABC audit: Newspaper circulation numbers for Jan-June ’22 show 20-30% drop

The decline is as compared to data from the previous audit conducted 2 years ago; experts attribute the drop to dailies omitting editions from ABC reporting

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Sep 29, 2022 8:24 AM  |  4 min read

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An audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), conducted after two years, for the period January-June 2022 has revealed that circulation figures have dropped by 20-30% when compared to the previous audited circulation data.

Experts believe that the decrease in circulation numbers can be mostly attributed to most newspapers deciding to exclude certain editions from ABC reporting.

This decision has been attributed to the impact of the pandemic on circulation numbers. It is crucial to highlight that while 2019 was a regular year, the previous two years were bore the brunt of Covid and that had an impact on the circulation data.

“We excluded some of our editions from ABC reporting for the period Jan-June 2022 because the numbers were low,” said a senior executive of a national Hindi daily.  

"The previous two years have been incredibly challenging for the print industry, and owing to lockdown and restrictions, we have not been able to distribute newspapers physically," he continued. “The audit period is from January to June of this year, but it's important to recognise that at the start of the year, there was concern about a third wave, and we were all trying to go back to normalcy. In terms of ad revenue and circulation numbers, the sector is returning to pre-Covid levels,” he said. 

According to ABC data for Jan-June 2022, accessed by exchange4media, the Average Qualifying Copies of a leading English daily for the period was 15,90,784 for 10 editions as compared to 27,07,985 for July-Dec 2019 and 24,91,910 for Jan-June 2019 (the numbers are for the same editions). Similarly, another national English daily reported average qualifying copies of 15,889 for three editions against 25,090 for July-Dec 2019 and 26,204 for Jan-June 2019.   

“This is not the first time that newspapers have opted out from the audit period. There are some publishers who never included any of their editions in a specific period,” said a senior executive of an English Daily on the condition of anonymity. 

Meanwhile, one of the leading national Hindi newspapers with the largest editions included only five of its editions in ABC reporting. The average number of qualifying copies for five editions was 875,259 against 1,027,348 for July-December 2019 and 1,021,697 for the period Jan-June 2019. Another Hindi daily only included one edition and reported average qualifying copies 68,367 as compared to 91,721 for June-Dec 2019 and 95,633 for January-June 2019. Another Hindi newspaper filed for its 15 editions. 

Even regional language publications have done something similar. While some choose to skip a few editions, others choose to skip all of them. For instance, a leading Marathi language newspaper filed only for one edition while another leading publisher opted out from the audit period. The one that filed only for one edition posted average qualifying copies of 48,459 for one edition against 61,237 (July-December 2019) and 61,840 (January-June 2019).  

In the Southern zone, two of the leading Kannada dailies filed for all their editions but saw a decline in circulation figures. One of them posted average qualifying copies of 473,786 against 673,639 for the July-Dec’2019 period and 658,217 for Jan-June’19 period. Another one recorded 542,457 for the Jan-June 2022 period against 7,57,119 for July-Dec ’22 and 7,40,174 for January-June ’19 period. 

One of the leading Telugu daily’s average qualifying copies stood at 1,323,068 for all its editions as compared to 1,614,105 in July-December ’19 and 1,656,933 in Jan-June the same year. One of the leading Malayalam dailies’ average qualifying copies was 1,971,773. The same newspaper had 23,08,612 average qualifying copies in July-December 2019 and 23,48,813 in January-June 2019. 

Commenting on the numbers, an ABC board member said, “It’s totally wrong to say that newspapers are pulling out some editions from ABC due to a fall in circulation. Newspapers never registered each and every edition. For example, the TOI Mumbai edition has not been part of ABC for many years.” He added that the ABC ratings are for government advertisements only and the issue was unnecessarily flared up by some Southern media houses.  

An industry observer stated under the condition of anonymity, that ABC data is mostly used for government advertising. "I don't believe the decline in circulation numbers will have a significant impact on advertising. It is mostly used to obtain government advertising. It is also well known that the sector has faced some difficulties as a result of COVID. Though the market is returning to normal, the spike in newsprint prices cannot be ignored.”

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