Manchester daily leaves ABC

The Manchester Evening News has withdrawn from Audit Bureau of Circulations sales accreditation claiming the audit does not properly reflect its new distribution model.

MEN Media, the subsidiary of Guardian Media Group which publishes the MEN, said today it would instead rely on an independently audited ‘publisher statement’which would better reflect recent changes to its part-paid, part-free distribution model.

In April, the MEN switched to a new distribution pattern, reducing the number of free copies it distributed in Manchester and the surrounding area in the early part of the week.

The publisher said the move to the new distribution method better reflected the demand for advertising space in the MEN.

However, the publisher claimed today current industry standard ABC rules could not represent clearly its new “bespoke” distribution pattern and as a result it had decided to withdraw the paper from ABC on a temporary basis.

Ruth Spratt, managing director of MEN Media, said the publisher had entered talks with ABC about applying a new circulation measurement model to its paper.

She said: “We continue to have a very good relationship with ABC and have no intention of removing any of our other titles.

“Furthermore we hope that in the not too distant future, through continued discussion, our more bespoke and transparent distribution pattern is included within ABC rules and we can look to move the Manchester Evening News back into ABC.”

The MEN pioneered a hybrid paid-for/free distribution strategy – also known as the “doughnut” approach – offering the MEN as a freesheet in central Manchester but still paid-for in the suburbs of the city.

MEN Media today made public figures for April to June this year audited under its new “publisher statement” which claimed an average circulation of 88,555 Monday to Wednesday, 165,238 Thursday to Friday; and 67,349 on a Saturday.

According to the most recent ABC circulation figures the MEN recorded a daily average circulation of 153,724 during the second half of 2008.

This figure combined paid-for average circulation of the daily paper, which was 71,933 during the second half of last year, 11.5 per cent down year on year, with 81,092 given away each day for free. The ABC audit does not specify day-to-day circulation averages.

In March MEN Media said it was cutting 39 journalist jobs out of 89 at the Manchester Evening News and another 39 across its 22 north-west weeklies as it closed all their local offices and relocated production to Manchester city centre. The division announced it wanted to cut a total of 150 jobs.

The following day GMG‘s Surrey and Berkshire Media division announced it was cutting 95 jobs, including about 35 journalist posts.

A month later it emerged that MEN Media was looking to cut a further 41 jobs – half the staff – from its local TV station Channel M as it scaled back its schedule to reduce costs.

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