Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Despite the economic downturn which hit newspapers worldwide, Gulf News has seen its circulation figures rise.

In the last audit period average sales over October 2008 to March 2009 have increased by 6.4 per cent compared to the average sales of the previous six months. It's a staggering 34 per cent increase compared to figures of three years ago.

Sanjay Malik, Al Nisr Group Circulation Manager, elaborates on the details of the audit and its significance.

What are the audit results? Have we scored higher than previous years?

As you can see, we have been growing consistently over the years. In fact, Gulf News Qualified Circulation, as audited by BPA has grown by over 34 per cent (October 2008-March 2009 compared to January-March 2006).

Gulf News has always pursued a subscription-led circulation strategy. Our subscriber base over the same period (October 2008 to March 2009 period compared to January to March 2006) has grown from 55,638 to 94,525 - a terrific growth of 69.9 per cent.

How does the rise in Gulf News circulation reflect on rivals' market share?

One of the most important points to note is that Gulf News is the only audited daily mainline English paid newspaper in the UAE.

Our share of the market has grown consistently in line with circulation growth. However, in the absence of any authenticated circulation data for competitive newspapers, it will be difficult to ascertain the exact percentage.

Fact is that circulation of competitive publications has declined significantly over the years.

The recently published IPSOS readership data also proves Gulf News' unassailable lead over its competitors. Comprehensive coverage of significant news from around the world; a wholesome news package through the week, attention to layout, design, format and navigation that enhances reading pleasure; focus on visual journalism - all combine to make up one of the finest editorial products in the region.

Investment in the largest, proprietary sales and distribution infrastructure for publications in the country which delivers the widest reach and services all our readers and channel members, everyday. [These are only some] of the factors that have contributed to the continuing success of Gulf News.

Above everything else is our obsessive allegiance to our readers - their information needs and expectations. The single most important reason for our continued success is our focus on keeping Gulf News contemporary and relevant for an extremely heterogeneous and discerning readership.

How do you view the importance of the audit results for our partners, readers and advertisers?

The power of audit data as a planning and buying tool is well established.

Publications that embrace circulation audits demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability to advertisers and have a powerful edge over unmeasured competition.

Audits enable media owners to compete successfully for advertising spend by providing media buyers and advertisers with independently audited data.

Media buyers and advertisers, in turn, demand such independent metrics to make informed buying decisions. In the words of Glenn Hansen, President and CEO of BPA Worldwide: "Our experience in the Middle East confirms what we have seen elsewhere. Market forces eventually hold sway and demand for audits overcomes vested interests, special arrangements and anything which gets in the way of the most informed and effective way of deploying an advertising budget."

With newspapers worldwide falling victim to rising internet media, how do you view the role of print in the UAE and the Gulf in general?

The debate on print versus web has been raging across the world for quite some time now. While there clearly is a general and steady increase in penetration and usage of online media, there are stark differences in different parts of the world.

What is happening to mix of media platforms in the west is not necessarily the case in this region. Here print dominates and we believe will continue to do so for a considerable more time - both in terms of readers as information seekers as well as advertisers looking for the most effective media vehicles.

Emergence of any new media platform - online in today's context - always poses a challenge to existing platforms to evolve to remain relevant. We believe strong print players in this region will evolve and adapt suitably to remain dominant.

One aspect of evolution is to approach the growing online platform as an opportunity. The focus for print players will be integration - how to build and leverage the combined strength of the print and online versions.

Audit methodology

Gulf News is audited by the internationally respected media audit company BPA Worldwide and the results are published by BPA giving full details of the qualified circulation by channel.

Audits are for six months periods (except for the period Jan-March 06). April to September is one period and October to March the second.

Going forward this cycle is likely to change to be in line with the calendar year January-June as one period and July-December as the second.