Telegraph and Mail groups to suffer circulation losses after bulk sales inquiry

Thursday, 13 August 2009 - 4:45pm

Sales figures for the Telegraph and Mail titles over the past year will be substantially reduced when the Audit Bureau of Circulations releases its latest statistics this Friday.

I understand that, following the conclusion of a lengthy inquiry into bulk sales, headline circulation figures for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday will show decreases for the months from November 2008 to April this year inclusive.

Sales of the Financial Times will also be reduced. All the papers have already taken steps to account for the disparity, so their figures for May and June were properly audited.

It is the Telegraph and Mail groups that will, in the words of one ABC member familiar with the situation, "take a real drubbing" with "substantial chunks being removed from their sales."

However, though the overall totals will be high, the publishers argue that the effect on the monthly figures will be small or "virtually negligible." (As I pointed out to a commenter, all the terms - huge, substantial, small - are relative).

The problem stems from the overstating of multiple copies sold to airlines by a subsidiary of the wholesale distributor, Dawson Holdings.

ABC monitors discovered back in February that all was not as it seemed. The Newspaper Publishers Association then ordered what it called "a forensic review" of all bulk sales. It was carried out by the chartered accountancy firm Grant Thornton.

During the inquiry, which involved a complex analysis of audit trails, the monthly ABC circulation reports carried a note about airline copies being "subject to further verification."