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ABC figures: It's the way you tell 'em

When it comes to reporting their ABCs, publishers are past masters at putting a positive gloss on the figures, however disappointing they might be…

By James Evelegh

ABC figures: It's the way you tell 'em

Ah, the ABCs – the six-monthly pain-fest for consumer publishers, where one part of their output (sadly, the declining part) is examined in minute detail and in isolation.

With some honourable exceptions, it’s not a pretty sight.

But publishers are nothing if not resilient and they come up with ever more imaginative ways of reporting bad news in such a way that it sounds like good news.

Here are some of the top techniques, executed with some panache last week, for spinning disappointing ABCs:

  1. Create your own metric. Find a big figure and talk about that instead. ‘Total copies circulated in last 12 months’ will normally produce an impressive sounding number.
  2. Talk headline figures, ignore the detail. Printing extra free copies is a time-honoured way of keeping the total ABC figure ticking upwards. There’s always a chance that media buyers will see the increased total and won’t notice the ongoing decline in your ‘actively purchased’ figure.
  3. Turn a negative into a positive. This is where your creative writing skills really come to the fore. Focus on your continued leading position in the market / increased market share / outperforming of market trends rather than on your own circulation falls.
  4. Report figures in isolation. If your circulation is still over 100k, then that’s not a bad sounding number. Highlight that and don’t make any YoY and PoP comparisons. Who needs to know that it was 200k last time?
  5. Muddy the waters. Magazine circulation might be down, but you’re attracting gazillions of followers on social media. Talk at length and in great detail about that.
  6. Keep quiet. Most people are still on the beach. There’s always a chance that no-one will notice…