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Six months to go before audit deadline reached

Publishers were this week warned they now have just six months to apply for a circulation audit or face losing advertising revenue.

Publishers were this week warned they now have just
six months to apply for a circulation audit or face losing advertising revenue.

While many publishers have already committed to signing up for an audit before the 1 January deadline set by the Circulation Audit Steering Organisation, there is still only a handful of titles — 38 in all — that have either been
audited or that have applied to be audited.

English language titles make up the bulk of that figure, while the number of Arabic publications is still lagging way behind. None of the seven Arabic daily papers in the UAE, including market leaders Al Bayan, Al Ittihad or Al Khaleej, has applied for an audit yet.

Last year Castor, which is made up of the GCC Association of Advertisers, the IAA and media agencies, issued a series of demands to publishers, including a minimum standard for print auditing, a common trading currency and greater industry transparency.

Marwan Rizk, vice president and area director of the IAA and chairman of Castor, said that it was time for publishers, especially of Arabic titles, to “get their act together”.

“This is not about anyone trying to outsmart anybody else — it’s about parity and transparency and it’s about time we took this profession up to the next level,” Rizk said. “Arabic titles are a must — we’re living in an Arabic world and it’s a big deal because Arabic is the language of the land. The time has come to stop believing in the old ways and avoiding the situation.”

Stuart Wilkinson, director of Europe, Middle East and Africa at the BPA, said publishers were beginning to take the Castor deadline seriously.

“We’re getting a lot of enquiries from all over the GCC, which tells me that good publishers are seeing this as a real opportunity,” he said.

“There are some encouraging signs — publishers are positive about it, but they want to know more and so we’re having discussions with them about what we would require from them for an audit. I think the deadline is on their minds, it is having an effect.”

But Wilkinson added that, as far as Arabic titles were concerned, BPA was still working at a “concept introduction” stage.

Jan Zijderveld, chairman of the GCCAA and of Unilever Middle East, said that while efforts by some publishers were to be welcomed, the move towards greater transparency had to step up a gear.

“Castor has gained good momentum, but we’re a long way from where we should be,” said Zijderveld.

“Some great titles have come along and we must congratulate, as well as support them. However, we’re still missing many, especially local Arab media titles. GCCAA members will start to positively discriminate and allocate spending toward audited titles.

“Media agencies need to turn up the heat and start to recommend to their clients the titles and publications that can demonstrate audited readership and that can be trusted as worthwhile investments as the clock is ticking,” added Zijderveld.

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