The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against the Pembrokeshire Herald over claims made in July last year that the paper had more combined readers in print and online than rival weekly the Western Telegraph.
The Herald had used Google Analytics as the basis for its claims, rather than the externally audited data provided by the Telegraph.
The ASA’s ruling was published yesterday following a complaint by the Telegraph’s publisher, Newsquest.
It reads: “We noted that the Pembrokeshire Herald had supplied information from a variety of different, third-party sources to compare respectively the figures for print readers and website visitors for their own publication and the Western Telegraph.
“However, while the figures provided for print readers of the Western Telegraph had been audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), and the figures for visitors to the Western Telegraph website had been prepared to the industry agreed standards defined by the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards in the UK (JICWEBS), the data relating to their own publication and website had not been similarly audited or verified.”
The Herald has since continued to run similar adverts, but has now attributed Google Analytics as the source of its claims.
He wrote: “We can understand why the Western Telegraph have been attempting to block us advertising this. In my view, this whole farrago has been an attempt by a large multinational to bully a small publisher. Everyone trusts Google Analytics as the standard benchmark for web visits worldwide.
“It is my view, regretfully, that the ASA has assisted Newsquest in its attempt to bully The Pembrokeshire Herald. ABC and JICWEBS, in my view, operate as a cartel.”
In response, Newsquest West Wales multimedia editor Steve Adams told HTFP: “We were aware that Mr Sinclair was likely to disregard the ASA ruling, which found he had committed four breaches of advertising guidelines in relation to misleading readers and failing to substantiate claims made in his advertising.
“The ASA, ABC and JICWEBS are industry-standard bodies which ensure transparency and clarity across the media industry. Bodies such as ABC and JICWEBS provide an essential service to ensure advertisers and customers are able to receive reliable and verifiable information.
“To label ABC a cartel is absurd. ABC is an independent, globally-respected organisation that ensures media outlets are measured against a common standard understood and accepted by all. ABC, JICWEBS and the ASA are the very organisations which ensure misleading advertising, massaged audience figures and false claims are identified and exposed for the good of advertisers, readers and the media industry as a whole.
“It seems strange that Mr Sinclair would seek to undermine the work of the very organisations which provide smaller, independent publishers a level playing field.”