Circulation scandal rocks Irish magazine industry

The circulation figures of three of the top women’s magazines in Ireland have been overstated by as much as 30 per cent over the past three years, according to an internal investigation by the magazines’ owner Smurfit Communications.

Two of the magazines may also be asked to hand back recently won awards after a spokesman for the Periodical Publishers’ Association of Ireland said the disclosure had made "a mockery" of the industry awards, which it sponsors.

The weekly Woman’s Way, voted consumer magazine of the year, was stated to have a sales figure of 66,200 whereas during the period under investigation the actual circulation was believed to have dropped to 48,000.

Irish Tatler took the editor of the year award and was credited with a monthly circulation of 20,400 while U magazine was said to have a monthly sale of 20,600. But these were overstated and the actual circulation figures for both magazines were between 20 and 30 per cent less.

Two top executives have resigned from the company since the disclosures but it is not known whether their departures are linked.

The PPAI has expressed its concern and said the entire Irish magazine sector could be damaged by the revelations. In future, all three titles will be independently audited by the Audited Bureau of Circulation.

Smurfit Communications – a Dublin-based division of the Jefferson Smurfit group – has not subscribed to the ABC for more than four years and only three other members of the PPAI are known to be ABC members.

Smurfit Communications’ management have been in negotiation with advertisers, discussing compensation for the virtual falsification of the sales figures. It is understood this could take the form of free or low-cost advertising in future issues.

One aspect of the overstatement is the question of product inserts, such as a shampoo sachets, which all three magazines used regularly. Advertisers would be asked to supply thousands of sachets for inclusion and the number would be determined by the stated sales figure of the magazine.

 

By Des Cryan in Dublin

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