Auditing ‘unstoppable’ after Gulf News signs up

Circulation audits in the Gulf region have gained an “unstoppable momentum” after the UAE’s Gulf News signed up to be audited by both the Audit Bureau of Circulation UK and BPA Worldwide.

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By  Tim Addington Published  March 26, 2006

Circulation audits in the Gulf region have gained an “unstoppable momentum” after the UAE’s Gulf News signed up to be audited by both the Audit Bureau of Circulation UK and BPA Worldwide. The news came as ITP also announced that more of its titles would also be audited by the BPA. The publisher, which produces Campaign, has added five of its titles to the BPA. Arabian Business’ English and Arabic editions, Etihad In Flight magazine, and its monthly Dubai tourist guide Visitor, all from ITP Consumer, will be audited. Hotelier, from ITP Business, has also been added. Gulf News, from Al Nisr Publishing, is widely regarded as the leading English language paper in the country, and its decision to open up its books to both of the leading international audit firms has surprised many in the media industry. The paper resigned from the ABC in the early 1990s after questioning the credibility of “highest circulation” claims made by newspapers that used ABC figures. Managers have been lobbying the recently formed Circulation Audit Steering Organisation (Castor), which was set up to drive audits amongst publishers in the region and to extend the scope of the standard auditing process in order to close the “loopholes used by unscrupulous publishers to misrepresent facts and figures”. The newspaper is urging all publications to undertake what it calls “end-to-end” audits, which include details such as newsprint imports and consumption, circulation numbers and confirmation of a newspapers’ circulation claims in other Gulf countries. Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, managing director at Gulf News, issued a challenge to English print media to substantiate their claims by undertaking audits by the two international audit firms. He said: “We have taken the initiative to act upon our own challenge and have ourselves audited comprehensively by both the ABC and BPA.” And in a veiled threat to rival publications that fail to provide more detailed audits, Al Tayer, said: “Such end-to-end audits of other publications will obviate the need for Gulf News to legally challenge the credibility of audit reports with figures that are obviously inaccurate. Until such time as common end-to-end audits are executed, claims remain at best a distortion of audit findings via loopholes, unsupported by research data.” Gulf News’ sister company, Al Nisr Media, has also announced that all of its magazines, which includes Wheels, Aquarius, Property Weekly and Inside Out, will also be audited by both the ABC and BPA. The company hopes to have audit figures for the Gulf News within six months. Castor spokesman David Sheridan, regional director at Mindshare, welcomed the push from English language titles, but urged more Arabic titles to apply. Talking about Gulf News, he said: “It is really good news. As a major English language title in the market, this should set a precedent that others will hopefully follow. There is an unstoppable momentum amongst the English press, but with the Arabic press we have got to get the ball rolling.” ShezanAmiji, who is general manger at 7Days newspaper, which is already BPA audited, said: “We welcome Gulf News’ eventual decision to audit. We feel that this act will improve the accountability of the print advertising market in the UAE.” His views were echoed by Gavin Dickinson, commercial director at Awraq Publishing, publishers of Emirates Today, which has not yet applied for an audit. “When the market leader makes a move like this it symbolises how this marketplace is changing.”

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