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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Publishers Balk at Appeal To Tell Circulation Figures

Representatives of Russia's print media reacted Friday with caution and distaste to suggestions they should start telling the truth about circulation figures as a method for attracting greater advertising revenues.

Most of the editors and publishers who had gathered to discuss the National Circulation Service, or NTS - a non-profit organization founded late last year that offers to verify circulation figures and report to advertisers - agreed that such a scheme was long overdue.

But the general reaction was: "Why should we go first?"

Or even second for that matter. Komsomolskaya Pravda was far from popular for leading the way earlier this week by dropping the circulation figure it publishes by over half a million copies, from 3,154,000 to 2,600,000.

"It was a hard decision and took a lot of nerve: How are we going to look in the eyes of advertisers?" said Vladimir Sungorkin, editor in chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda and chairman of the board at Segodnya Press, Russia's largest publishing house.

Sungorkin expressed disappointment that competitors such as Trud, Izvestia and Argumenty i Fakty had gone on quoting the same old inflated figures.

"Komsomolskaya Pravda looks somewhat foolish," he said.

In return for a fee of $100 to $2,000 every three months - depending on the publication's size - NTS will verify print media's circulation figures and allow certified publications to print the NTS logo next to the masthead.

The NTS was founded last year by the Russian Chamber of Commerce, the Russian Union of Journalists and the Russian trade associations for advertisers, distributors and printers.

While most publishers said Friday that NTS' fees were too high, there are about 20 publications, mostly regional ones, that are ready to sign up, said Igor Yakovenko, acting director of NTS.

Komsomolskaya Pravda and Krestyanka, a monthly women's magazine, are the only national publications interested in participating, he added.

Derk Sauer, executive director at Independent Media, parent company of the firm that publishes The Moscow Times, said the company would be watching the NTS with interest but was not planning to change its practices.

Independent Media was the first company in Russia to utilize an independent accountancy firm, PriceWaterhouseCooper, to audit its stable of glossy magazines, which include the Russian versions of Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping.

"Better transparency in the industry is always better, but it was unclear how independent such a body will be if it is run by publishers themselves," Sauer said.

The Moscow Times has a print run of 30,000 five days a week. Most copies are distributed free, although 3,500 copies are delivered to paying subscribers.

All publications printed in Russia are required by law to register their actual print run figures with the Print Ministry and print that figure somewhere in the publication. The government is empowered to levy fines on media found to have breached the law but it has very rarely done so.