Manchester Evening News is to rejoin the Audit Bureau of Circulations sales accreditation after temporarily withdrawing in August.
The MEN, flagship daily of MEN Media, will once again have its circulation independently assessed, from this month, after claiming that changes to the way the ABC conducts the audit will now properly reflect its distribution pattern.
The paper was withdrawn from the ABC in the summer in favour of an independently audited “publisher statement” that it said would better reflect changes to its part-paid, part-free distribution model.
The MEN’s “hybrid” model fell foul of ABC regulations that stated the amount of free distribution should be consistent throughout the week. The circulation body has now modified its rules.
Ruth Spratt, managing director of MEN Media, said: “In August we said we hoped that in the not too distant future, through continued discussion, our more bespoke and transparent distribution pattern would be included within ABC rules and that we could move the Manchester Evening News back into ABC.
“This has now become a reality and we look forward to becoming part of the ABC auditing process at the beginning of the New Year.”
The MEN began its part free, part paid-for experiment in April 2006, giving away 50,000 copies in the city centre – but continuing to sell the paper further out.
Since then, paid-for sales have rapidly dropped and free copies have overtaken them. Combined circulation peaked at over 180,000, but since the onset of the recession the MEN has begun restricting free-circulation.
Manchester Evening News paid-for circulation in the first half of 2006 was 114,676. In the same period in 2008, this had dropped to 77,125.
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 this distribution method better reflected the demand for advertising space in the MEN.
However, it signalled a further retreat from its part free, part paid-for strategy last month – restricting it to just two days a week.
The MEN will now be part free, part paid-for on Thursdays and Fridays – and fully paid-for from Monday to Wednesday and on Saturdays.
The shifting distribution pattern comes at a turbulent time for the newspaper.
Both the editor and deputy editor left the title last year following mass redundancies then in early December parent company, Guardian Media Group, confirmed that it was in talks to sell off the paper along with its other regional titles.