This story first appeared in The Australian on 7 October 2013
- MILES HEFFERNAN
- THE AUSTRALIAN
- OCTOBER 07, 2013 12:00AM
Advertisers were also told the publication was widely distributed in southeast Queensland when the documents suggested only 310 copies were delivered outside of Brisbane. Source: Herald Sun
AN Office of Fair Trading investigation has been launched into allegations that two of Australia’s largest gay street press publishers, Sydney-based Evolution Publishing and Brisbane’s QNews, had misled advertisers by inflating their distribution numbers by as much as 300 per cent.
In one case, Evolution claimed its fortnightly title Queensland Pride was distributing 15,740 copies per issue at the end of last year when only 4970 copies were going out, according to information provided to the OFT in Queensland.
Advertisers were also told the publication was widely distributed in southeast Queensland when the documents suggested only 310 copies were delivered outside of Brisbane.
Evolution, which also produces titles including SX in NSW, Melbourne Community Voice and South Australia’s Blaze, was wound up in May but a new company, Evo Media, run by the same people and publishing the same titles, launched immediately after.
According to distribution manifests being looked at by the OFT, QNews claimed 14,370 copies of its fortnightly newspaper QNews hit the streets in the last quarter of 2012 when only 7785 editions were actually printed.
The manifests showed that since 2010 QNews appeared not to have printed more than 10,000 copies of any of its publications, with most averaging about 8500 copies or fewer, despite claims it was distributing as many as 16,250 copies.
An OFT spokeswoman said it did not provide details on open investigations. “They are being investigated, that’s the only comment we can make,” she said.
In its 2012 media kit QNews warned prospective advertisers about publications exaggerating their figures. After questions about its distribution practices, QNews has changed the information on its website, removing references to how many copies it prints and scaling back readership and distribution claims. QNews director and publisher Ray Mackereth said he was not aware of any investigation and the company had never “intentionally” reported incorrect distribution numbers.
“Our distribution is entirely available on our website. We try to keep it all as up to date as we can,” he said. No one from Evolution could be contacted to comment on the OFT investigation. Hundreds of small businesses and community groups advertise in the gay street press, including the Gay and Lesbian Business Network, which has had more than $15,000 in government aid to run ads in the publications.
Evolution’s former Victorian manager, Shane Bridges, said he had received complaints from advertisers and distribution points about poor responses to their advertising and from distribution points about not receiving enough copies of Melbourne Community Voice and other publications from the company. “MCV got down to 4950 copies being printed when it was meant to be triple that,” Mr Bridges said.
National distribution company MMPD worked for Evolution and “continually” complained that there were “simply not enough issues printed” and it could not fulfil its distribution manifests, said MMPD managing director Simon Coulter. “The whole point of MMPD’s service was targeted to each distribution outlet, down to the local cafe, so the advertising would work with the exact demographic targeted,” Mr Coulter said. “Evolution’s failure to print even half of what they promised undermined the whole process, so it is a shame to hear we were blamed by their staff.”
Miles Heffernan is a freelance writer who has previously contributed to QNews.