Shawn Lim
Jan 12, 2023

SPH Media circulation scandal: Industry body refutes CEO's claims, call for transparency

The Association of Advertising and Marketing Singapore responds to SPH Media CEO's open letter to unhappy advertisers.

SPH Media circulation scandal: Industry body refutes CEO's claims, call for transparency

After Singapore-based publisher SPH Media admitted it inflated circulation numbers, the Association of Advertising and Marketing Singapore has expressed its disappointment with the publisher and has called for transparency. 

SPH Media, which owns newspapers like The Straits Times, Berita Harian and Lianhe Zaobao, had inflated circulation numbers to between 85,000 and 95,000 through various means, including printing copies meant for circulation and then destroying them.  

The publisher also counted the number of subscriptions twice and used fake accounts to buy subscriptions. According to reports, circulation numbers were also randomly shared with advertisers and lapsed contracts were also counted in the final tally. 

After the revelation by SPH Media, unhappy advertisers demanded answers from the publisher, forcing to SPH Media chief executive officer Teo Lay Lim release an open letter to advertisers to address their concerns. 

In the letter, she claimed circulation data is not used as a basis for SPH Media’s advertising packages. 

“Our media rates and advertising packages are based on reach and readership of individual titles, and our SPH Media solutions as a whole,” wrote Teo.

“Data on reach and readership is collected periodically via a survey panel that is statistically representative of the Singapore population. This data is obtained from and verified by independent third-party research agencies, namely GfK.” 

However, the AAMS rebutted Teo’s statement, saying that “circulation not being the basis of promoting advertising sales does not exonerate the practice of falsifying circulation figures.” 

“AAMS is disappointed that such an incident has occurred. Absolute transparency is needed from a major newspaper group that not just generations of Singaporeans, but so many local and multinational businesses have grown up with,” Goh Shufen, the president of the AAMS said in a statement to Campaign Asia-Pacific,

“As a national medium, and virtually the voice of Singapore, one would expect its responsibility to extend well beyond just commercial boundaries.” 

However, Goh noted that this was uncovered through an internal audit by SPH and that steps have already been taken by the company to rectify the practice. She also pointed out SPH in the past had been a strong supporter of audited circulation.  

“As a long-standing Industry body, we look forward to meeting with SPH to bring back this trust and work together to ensure the highest standards for the admarcom industry,” said Goh. 

A check by Campaign Asia-Pacific with the World Federation of Advertisers has found that to date, none of its members have either pulled spend or paused spending with SPH Media.

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