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Revealed: How a 7.5pc ‘circulation rise’ turned into a 6.2pc drop

Revised sales figures for a regional daily have revealed that a purported 7.5pc sales increase in the second half of 2011 was in fact a 6.2pc drop.

ABC figures for Archant’s daily titles and its Norfolk weeklies were published today following a six-week delay after a former Archant senior circulation manager submitted falsified figures.

Don Williamson was dismissed in August for having overstated the Norfolk titles’ figures in the previous set of results published in February this year.

Those figures, covering the second half of 2011 published in February, purported to show that the Norwich Evening News had increased its circulation by 7.5pc.

However revised figures for the same period published today show that the title’s circulation actually went down by 6.2pc in that period and by 17.8pc in the period January – June 2012.

Sister title the Eastern Daily Press, which had originally posted a 0.7pc circulation increase in the second half of 2011, has had its figure revised downwards to a decrease of 6.5pc, with a further fall of 10.5pc in the first half of 2012.

Since the original 2011 figures were published, there has been a wholesale shake-up at both Norfolk dailies with Nigel Pickover moving from the Ipswich Star to become editor-in-chief.

The original 2011 figures for the Star, which posted a 0.4pc rise, and the East Anglian Daily Times, with a 0.3pc increase, were found to be correct in today’s revised figures.

The Star, which went from an 80pc paid-for title in the second half of 2011 to 61pc paid-for title in the first half of 2012, saw its average circulation increase year-on-year by 20.2pc to 18,451 in the period January to June 2012.

However the EADT fell back in the first half of this year with a 4pc drop.

Archant Norfolk’s paid-for weeklies all saw circulation falling in the first half of this year according to today’s figures.

The North Norfolk News was down 7.7pc, Dereham and Fakenham Times 8.5pc, Great Yarmouth Mercury 13.7pc, Lowestoft Journal 13.9pc, and Beccles and Bungay Journal 15.3pc.

In a message to staff today, Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings described the situation as “very disappointing.”

“The review and audit process has been thorough and complete and we have put new controls in place to ensure there is no recurrence of these problems,” he said.

“We will continue to strive to maintain and grow print circulation by all legitimate means possible, but primarily through the promotion and marketing of our newspapers’ excellent content, which remains undiminished.

“Having now resolved the issues identified, we can again start to grow sales of our newspapers.  Early indications are encouraging.”

The publisher has also appointed a new circulation director in the shape of Darron McLoughlin , who has been poached from Johnston Press where he is currently Head of Newspaper Sales Development.

Darron, who has recent experience in developing newspaper subscription packages, including bundling print and digital editions. will start his new role on November 5.”

Archant Anglia MD, Johnny Hustler, said: “We are now determined to put this matter behind us. The falsification of our circulation numbers caused a shockwave across our hardworking and dedicated teams in Archant Anglia, who are now working more closely than ever to produce great newspapers which engage with our readers and deliver results for our advertisers.”

Jan Pitt, Group Executive Director, Client Services at ABC said, “Archant engaged with ABC as soon as they identified there was an issue with their circulation reporting, and we have worked closely with them to complete the audit of their titles in Norfolk and Suffolk. We have welcomed their constructive engagement and commitment.”

ABC figures for January to June 2012

Daily titles
East Anglian Daily Times 28,745 Paid -4pc
Ipswich Star 18,451 Paid 20.2pc
Eastern Daily Press 53,233 Paid -10.5pc
Norwich Evening News 15,750 Paid -17.8pc
Weekly titles
The Advertiser – Norwich Edition 55,896 Free 0.2pc
The Advertiser – Waveney Edition 44,406 Free 1pc
The Advertiser – Yarmouth Edition 41,230 Free 1.9pc
Beccles & Bungay Journal 5,650 Paid -15.3pc
Bury St Edmunds Mercury 23,052 Free 0.3pc
Coastal Scene 10,295 Free -23.9pc
Dereham & Fakenham Times 6,328 Paid -8.5pc
Diss Mercury 12,526 Free 2.6pc
Great Yarmouth Mercury 14,705 Paid -13.7pc
Lowestoft Journal 14,302 Paid -13.9pc
North Norfolk News 6,619 Paid -7.9pc
Stowmarket Mercury 11,267 Free N/A
Sudbury Mercury 13,693 Free -5.3pc
Thetford & Watton Times 18,754 Free 0.6pc
Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury 13,802 Free 0.6pc


Revised ABC figures for July – December 2011

East Anglian Daily Times 29,772 Paid 0.3pc
Ipswich Evening Star 15,471 Paid 0.4pc
Eastern Daily Press 55,553 Paid -6.45pc
Norwich Evening News 16,514 Paid -6.24pc
The Advertiser – Norwich Edition 54,833 Free -0.6pc
The Advertiser – Waveney Edition 44,297 Free 4.3pc
The Advertiser – Yarmouth Edition 39,893 Free -4pc
Beccles & Bungay Journal 6,113 Paid -3.98pc
Bury Mercury 22,462 Free -6.3pc
Coastal Scene 14,375 Free 25.5pc
Dereham & Fakenham Times 6,457 Paid -0.44pc
Diss Mercury 12,185 Free -0.2pc
Great Yarmouth Mercury 15,125 Paid -5.54pc
Lowestoft Journal 15,027 Paid -4.50pc
North Norfolk News 6,928 Paid -1.77pc
Sudbury Mercury 13,529 Free -13pc
Thetford & Watton Times 18,659 Free 0.1pc
Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury 13,745 Free -0.1pc


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  • October 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Mad. It just shows how far removed these people are from the real world.

    The circulation is key to advertising revenues – higher circulation = better reponse for clients = they rebook. By fudging the figures, it looks great on paper, but diddly squat for the advertisers or the cover revenue, so why do it??!

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  • October 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    I have no idea why what happened at Archant Norfolk happened.

    All I do know having working with Don Williamson for many years is that he is a man of integrity, humour and totally professional. When in years gone by, we needed van runs rearranged to accommodate a late breaking story, he would sort it. When there was a crisis at the print works at three in the morning, Don would be there – alongside his dedicated team too.

    So please don’t make him the whipping boy in all this. The bloke’s a pro, and who knows what pressures were brought to bear.

    I think most people who know the papers would agree the EDP and Evening News have not been at their cutting-edge best in recent years, but I think Nigel Pickover has the clarity and old fashioned editorial nous to put that right.

    The sad thing is that probably won’t mean a circulation increase – just a bloody good couple of papers that can hold their heads high in their community.

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  • October 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    The Star a “61pc paid-for title”. Er, so they are actually selling just over half their copies and the remainder are bulks. And that’s the “clean” figure.

    Fag packet maths gives that a sale of around 10,000.

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