The Guardian and Observer to axe all newspaper bulks

LONDON - Guardian News & Media will next month become the first national quality newspaper publisher to scrap distribution of all its bulk copies, a move that will cut thousands from circulation figures for The Guardian and The Observer.

Guardian: ending bulks
Guardian: ending bulks

In the past, GN&M, like its rivals, has used bulks in hotels and airlines as a means of sampling to new readers, while extending its official reach for advertisers.

The publisher says the move is an attempt to "increase transparency across the newspaper industry", although bulks are a much smaller proportion of its overall circulation figures than for most of its rivals.

According to the ABC figures for June, bulk copies were responsible for 4% of "sales" of The Guardian, equating to 12,000 copies. That figure rises to 5% for The Observer, which will lose almost 20,000 copies from its monthly ABC figure.

In contrast, bulks make up 9% of circulation for The Times, about 11% for The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, 20% for The Independent and more than 22% for The Independent on Sunday. Only The Sunday Times gives away fewer copies as a percentage of circulation, with 19,000 equating to just 1.5%.

The publisher will not include its bulk copies in the ABCs released this Friday (14 August) and will physically stop distributing the copies from September.

The move at GNM has been managed by Adam Freeman, deputy commercial director at GNM and the group’s general manager, and production and distribution specialist, Joe Clark.

Freeman said: "We don't believe bulks are the right way to sample newspapers. We'd rather reward customers for their loyalty through offers and subs deals.

"GN&M is already involved in a subscription strategy for the titles, and Freeman admits more emphasis will be put on developing this.

"There are a variety of ways to monetise our business which are all improved by tightening up our consumer base," he added.

Rob Lynam, press account director at Mediaedge:cia, said bulks offered "no real value" for GN&M. "In the vast majority of cases, I remove the bulks from most media plans," he said. "They are always too difficult to quantify, with little or no evidence of them converting people into regular readers."

However, Anthony Gibson-Watt, buying director at Zed, called it a "pragmatic decision", and said it was probably "made for cost reasons or because of a breakdown in relations with one of the airports".

He believes bulks still provide a valid circulation, albeit less valued then full-price copies.

GN&M's move comes amid a formal investigation by the ABC into rules relating to airline sampling, which has been under way since February.

It has been suggested the rules require revision to reflect more accurately the practicalities of airline sampling methods. 

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