The New Age has finally released some sales figures, though they are of dubious credibility.
The 20-month old paper says they have “commenced a process of circulation auditing and verification”, but still do not talk of joining the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the industry verification body, and therefore one has to treat all their claims with caution.
This is significant because without verified sales numbers their main sources of advertising – government departments and parastatals – are on difficult legal ground when trying to justify their expenditures. It is hard – if not impossible – to argue that public money is spent appropriately on sponsorship and advertising if there are no figures to demonstrate it.
The New Age press release yesterday said they had shown an “impressive 206% growth, according to the SA Advertising Research Foundation. This is based on audience research rather than sales figures. They said they now had an average daily readership of 107 000. They also claimed “an impressive increase in subscribers” – but gave no numbers at all.
The newspaper said they printed and circulated 100 000 copies across the country, and presumably this is daily. They say that their “audited” circulation for February 2013 stood at 86 654 “for paid and free copies”. This is of dubious value not just because it has not been through the standard verification process, but because there is no breakdown of how many copies are actually paid for. Certainly they give away large numbers at airports, parastatals, universities and on the streets – so the bulk of these are probably give-aways.
Furthermore, it is not very meaningful to give one single month’s figures, as sales from the months before and after this can easily be pushed into that month’s accounting. The figures will not mean much until one can see a verified pattern over time.
The New Age said in their media release that they were “driven by a new approach to newspapering” and were in “determined pursuit of an innovative approach to editorial and advertising”. But hiding your sales figures is not very innovative. In fact, it is a practice as old as newspapering.