The Audit Bureau of Circulations has revised the circulation figures of six national newspapers, including the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, following the conclusion of a lengthy inquiry into the sale of bulk copies to airports and airlines.
Associated Newspapers and Telegraph Media Group issue a joint statement this afternoon saying they had received assurances airport bulks were correctly distributed and that the re-evaluation was the result of a "technical hitch in the audit trail".
A new set of industry standards over the reporting of bulk circulations is now expected following a second inquiry into these airport andd hotel sales by the Newspaper Publishers' Association.
Alongside publishing its monthly circulation figures for July, the ABC issued revised sets of audited figures for the nine months to June, this year, in which it had revised data for Associated Newspapers' Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, Telegraph Media Group's Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the London Evening Standard and the Financial Times.
ABC said circulation figures of these titles had been adjusted retrospectively following a review it set in motion in March to verify the circulation of bulks - copies sold for a nominal fee to airlines, rail firms, hotels, gyms and fast food restaurants.
ABC said: 'During an inspection of the claimed circulation of airline multiple copy sales for periods October 2008 to April 2009, the required reporting standards could not be met in fullâ€¦as the audit trail for payment of certain copies was not compliant with the standards."
The circulations body said revised figures for the Financial Times related only to the period October 08 to January this year and also for previously reported March circulations.
Taking a January as a sample month, the ABC reduced the Daily Mail's average daily circulation from the previously reported figure of 2,228,897 to 2,200,398 – a reduction of just over 28,000 copies on average each day.
The Mail on Sunday was reduced from a top line circulation of 2,189,432 each week in January to 2,134,809 – a reduction of 54,623.
Once adjusted the Financial Times dropped from its previously reported figure of 432,944 to 426,676.
The Daily Telegraph was reduced from 842,912 to 783,210; the adjusted figure is 59,702 copies lower on average each day.
Its sister paper, the Sunday Telegraph, was reduced from 619,243 to 602,306 – an adjustment of 16,937.
The Evening Standard dropped from the previously reported circulation of 292,976 to 237,403 – an adjustment of 55,573 fewer copies sold each day.
It is understood the review came about after ABC carried out a spot check on multiple sales copies sent to airlines through a subsidiary of distribution business Dawson.
Telegraph Media Group and Associated Newspapers today distanced themselves from mistakes in their reported circulations.
They also dismissed reports, from earlier this week, which suggested their titles would be significantly reduced by the re-evaluation.
The two newspaper publishers said revised figures for the Telegraph and the Mail for May, June and July showed sales levels to airlines and airports at 'much the same level as they were last summer."
A spokesman for ANL and TMG said: 'The decision of the ABC to re-state the airport sales figures from October 2008-April 2009 is a result of a technical hitch in the audit trail; certain copies were found not to be compliant in full with the ABC's required reporting standards.
'Dawson Media Direct (DMD) is the approved ABC distributor and was responsible for the delivery arrangements of these airport copies. Newspaper publishers have no direct oversight of the distribution process involved or the contracts with the airlines.
'An independent audit funded by the Newspaper Publishers' Association of these airport sales has now been carried out successfully and the ABC is working with the NPA to produce revised industry regulations.
'DMD has assured publishers that during the October-April period the actual copies of our newspapers were correctly distributed to airlines and airports allowing them to be picked up and read by airport passengers as normal.
'Airline sales remain a part of our distribution strategy, and are an important means of targeting potential customers."
Guardian News & Media announced earlier this week that it would stop the sale of bulk copies of its Guardian and Observer titles to "increase openness in the marketplace". Express Newspapers and Mirror Group have not distributed bulks for several years.
The Evening Standard, under new owner Alexander Lebedev, last month switched from reporting ABCs monthly as a national newspaper to the twice yearly regional newspaper report.