‘Toronto Star’ Publisher, Two Other Big Canadian Chains Drop Out of ABC

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By: E&P Staff

In a stunning rejection of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), three of the biggest Canadian newspaper chains, including the publishing company of the nation’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, announced Wednesday that effective immediately their circulation audits will be performed by the Canadian Circulation Audit Board (CCAB).

With their defection, the chains — Torstar, Sun Media, and Transcontinental Inc. — are taking with them 30 dailies that had been audited by ABC.

In a joint statement, the companies said they felt a need for “a ‘Made in Canada’ auditing structure to address widespread concerns within the newspaper industry about a lack of Canadian input into U.S.-based auditing agencies, and because of the need for increased recognition of unique Canadian perspectives on the future of the newspaper industry.”

The three noted that earlier this year CCAB created a “Canadian Newspaper Advisory Board” that is the main decision-making body for Canadian papers that join the auditing firm.

The Canadian board of 16 members is split evenly between newspapers and representatives of the advertising industry, the chains said. This differs from ABC, which is structured to give more control to the advertising industry. Two-thirds of ABC board seats are divided evenly between advertisers and ad agencies, with newspapers given the remaining one-third of spots.

The chains also noted that all types of newspapers — paid, free, metros or community — are audited by CCAB. ABC does audit free papers, but only those owned by members who also publish a paid paper.

“The new CCAB governance system allows Torstar to consolidate all of its circulation auditing with one organization,” Sandy MacLeod, Star Media Group’s vice president of consumer marketing and strategy said in a statement. “Paid dailies, free dailies and community newspapers all have a place and a voice within the new system, which is important when it comes to dealing with the unique characteristics of the Canadian marketplace. We believe this will also better serve our advertisers.” Star Media is a unit of Torstar.

The move was condemned by three executives of big Canadian ad agencies, and the CEO of Canada’s largest newspaper chain, CanWest, in statements released through ABC.

“I can’t begin to express how shocked and disappointed I am at this shortsighted move,” said Hugh Dow, president of M2 Universal and COO of Universal McCann. “In an environment in which newspapers are struggling to retain readers and advertising revenue, this will only make media buyers more apprehensive and wary. ABC has been the gold standard of auditing since its founding nearly a century ago, and those standards are needed more today than ever. We are now supposed to accept two different standards in Canada? I cannot imagine a worse time to make the newspaper-buying decision problematic.”

Dennis Skulsky, President and CEO of CanWest, said he fully supported ABC.

“I appreciate and recognize that the U.S. and Canadian marketplaces are different,” he said. “That’s precisely why ABC has addressed this over the years with unique rules and guidelines specific to Canada. I’m disappointed my colleagues have decided a lesser audit is the way to go, given the challenges we already face in our industry.”

With the announcement, Star Media is moving to CCAB the Toronto Star, and three other Torstar dailies in Ontario: Hamilton Spectator; the Waterloo Region Record; and the Guelph Mercury.

Sun Media is moving 14 dailies to CCAB from ABC: the Toronto Sun; the Edmonton Sun; the Calgary Sun; the Winnipeg Sun; the Ottawa Sun; The London Free Press; The Sarnia Observer; The Beacon Herald in Stratford; the Daily Observer in Pembroke; The Recorder and Times in Brockville; The Times-Journal in St. Thomas; the Brantford Expositor; Le Journal de Montreal; and Le Journal de Quebec.

Thirty Sun Media papers already belonged to CCAB.

Transcontinental — Canada’s second largest chain — said the newspapers that will now be audited by the CCAB include The Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland; The Western Star in Corner Brook, Newfoundland; The Guardian in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; The Journal Pioneer in Summerside, Prince Edward Island; The Cape Breton Post in Sydney, Nova Scotia; Truro Daily News in Truro, Nova Scotia; Amherst Daily News, Nova Scotia; The News in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia; Prince Albert (Saskatchewan) Daily Herald; and Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan) Times Herald.

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