Consumer mags need to kick the bulk copies habit

Emap wants the magazine industry to clean up its act. Like a self-righteous ex-smoker who has managed to kick the habit, it is preaching with the zeal of the convert to the unfortunates who have not yet summoned up enough willpower of their own.

The disgusting habit in its sights? Bulk copies of consumer magazines. It wants to expose the “dirty secret” that magazines are being given away free to readers in airport lounges or hotels as a sampling exercise that also happens to boost apparent circulation.

In the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s forthcoming statistics for the first half of the year, Emap Consumer will be reporting only “actively purchased” sales as its headline figures. Bulks, or “multiple copy” sales, will be stripped out to give a more honest and transparent picture of an Emap magazine’s health and, therefore, the true value of its circulation.

It sent out press releases and placed articles in various media publications trumpeting its new “cleanliness”. All very laudable – though it had already cut the bulks from its ABC figures six months ago, and six months before that, which detracts from the impact somewhat.

Readers don’t care about such things, so presumably Emap’s tub-thumping is to make sure advertisers are fully aware that they won’t necessarily be comparing like with like when they look at the top-line circulations next week.

Nonetheless, a decreased reliance on bulks can only be a good thing. The regional press and national newspapers have all largely embraced the move to kick the habit. Consumer magazines could do well to follow their – and Emap’s – lead.

Then they could all concentrate on the most hazardous drug of all.

Cover mounts.

Now there’s an addiction that’s going to be really tough to crack.

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