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'Independent auditing is the best way of proving a publication's circulation figures'

Manuel Sala, Managing Director of OJD.
Manuel Sala, Managing Director of OJD. / SUR
  • Being part of OJD is vital in guaranteeing the reliability and quality of publications for both readers and advertisers

If anyone knows about media auditing in Spain, it's Manuel Sala. With more than 20 years' experience keeping tabs on the figures of the publishing world, he has been Managing Director of Spain's leading media auditing organisation, OJD, since 2014. At a time when readers and advertisers demand reliability and transparency more than ever, Sala talks to SUR in English - the only English-language publication on the Costa del Sol audited by OJD - about the importance of certified circulation for both paid-for and free newspapers.

Briefly, what services does OJD (Oficina de Justificación de la Difusión) offer?

Our firm certifies circulation figures for publications, both print and digital, which carry advertising. We have several brands: OJD for paid-for media and PGD for publications that are distributed free of charge, among others.

How does it work? How do you audit the circulation figures?

Our methodology is totally reliable and accredited. Bear in mind we've been auditing newspapers since 1965 (more than 55 years). Declarations of print run and circulation figures are given by the publishers of each of the audited media, with the required details, and OJD carries out auditing techniques to check the figures. It publishes the certifications quickly and always according to market standards.

What are the advantages for a publication of having independent auditing?

It's the best way of proving that their circulation or distribution figures are true and that they have adequate coverage and frequency to make them the ideal vehicle for advertising. Our stamp is an indicator of the quality of a publication because it can be compared with others of the same type or in the same geographical area. A publication that is in OJD is on the media lists that agencies receive every month so they can plan [advertising] based on objective print-run and circulation data. They are not estimated figures (readership), but audited (how many copies are produced), checked each time by the OJD's team of highly specialised auditors.

Why is this so important for advertisers?

Because that way they can calculate the cost by the impact they will have with each publication (dividing the cost of a page of advertising by the number of copies) and optimise their campaigns. What's more, by committing to being audited by OJD, publishers avoid discrepancies occurring between the number of copies promised and those that are really produced, guaranteeing the efficacy of the advertiser's communication, and that their advertising reaches a given number of readers.

And what message does belonging to OJD give readers?

The most important media in Spain (newspapers and magazines) are controlled by OJD on a recurring basis. Their readers know that the advertising that goes in the publication contributes to keeping the sale cost down [in the case of paid-for publications] and keeping the quality of the published content high. In many Spanish cities and provinces, appearing in the press is fundamental for local commercial campaigns and activities. Advertising becomes a service to the public and shapes many activities with the support of the media (fun runs, concerts, shows, etc).

Today, with so many sources of information on the internet and social media, transparency in the press is more important than ever...

Without a doubt. There is a huge difference between having access to information and being well-informed. The internet, and in particular social media, mean that everyone has access to information, but they also contribute to spreading hoaxes and fake news that damage individuals and institutions. Being well-informed requires means of communication produced by professionals and whose information comes from reliable sources. Transparency is one of the characteristics of these publications, which are valuable because they help shape public opinion with guaranteed veracity of facts and control over misinformation.

Why do you think there are some publications that do not subscribe to the services of OJD?

Their reasons could be diverse. In many cases it's because the real print run and circulation figures are very low and would not stand up to a comparison with the figures quoted by the publication in its advertising. In others, it's a case of very niche publications that know their sector's advertisers and, as they have no reliable circulation figures, the advertising prices are the result of pure negotiation. There are also publications that have just appeared on the market and are waiting for more established figures before certifying them. We offer all publications a service at a very reasonable price, because our aim is to add transparency to circulation figures.

The OJD/PGD in Spain is part of the International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Certification (IFABC) which also includes the UK's ABC. Why are international relations important for auditors?

This is very interesting. All countries where advertising is highly developed have offices similar to the OJD. They have different names in each country: in the UK, India, Serbia and Croatia, it's the Audit Bureau of Certifications. In the US it is called Alliance for Audited Media and was formed back in 1914 to offer advertisers reliable press figures. In France it is OJD, in Argentina and Brazil, the Instituto Verificador de Circulación, in Italy ADS, in Germany IVW, in Belgium CIM... The important thing is that not any firm can do it. To be a circulation auditor you have to guarantee independence. For that the organisation has to be formed (as owners) by advertisers, agencies and media of that country. In that way they can guarantee that the data responds to market standards.

What projects has OJD developed in line with changing media?

Before I became Managing Director in 2014, I was responsible for OJDinteractiva, the division for auditing online media (websites, newsletters, apps, etc.). In recent years we have launched certification services for Outdoor Advertising (billboards, MUPIs, etc.) and event attendance. This year has been complicated due to the pandemic, but we've continued with our services and provided support for publishers to continue controlling their circulation.

We've just taken a giant step forward in the certification of digital editions of magazines (the replica version for tablets or mobiles). From 2021 these will be certified by OJD as part of total circulation. We are also talking to several publishers to audit digital subscriptions via paywall.