The UK Audit Bureau of Circulation [ABC UK] found that Wall Street Journal Europe‘s arrangement with a Dutch company didn’t violate any rules, Paid Content reported. As we wrote in October, the Wall Street Journal Europe’s deal with Dutch firm Executive Learning Partnership included the Journal’s Europe edition publishing two articles about the firm in exchange for Executive Learning Partnership’s buying a bulk number of Journal issues at a discount. That deal wasn’t disclosed in the two articles about ELP, and Wall Street Journal Europe publisher Andrew Langhoff resigned in October after the arrangement was revealed. (See here our October article about the resignation and the circulation arrangement.)
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Jan. 4 report, ABC UK is “the British media-industry group that approves newspaper circulation figures” and its review found the deal “complied with ABC U.K.’s reporting standards for international publications.” (See ABC UK’s full statement is published here.)
The Wall Street Journal noted that “At the time [of the deal], ABC U.K. had approved the contract between the newspaper and the consulting firm”
Paid Content noted “Had it found a flaw, ABC UK could have restated 18 months’ worth of WSJ Europe circulation at lower levels – something which would have angered advertisers. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, ABC UK will review its “reporting standards governing such bulk-distribution deals” after this incident.
The Wall Street Journal noted that Dow Jones issued a statement on the findings, in which it said it was “pleased” with the review and reiterated the review’s findings “has been our position from the outset.” The statement reads in part:
“The Wall Street Journal Europe has been transparent throughout.The agreement with ELP was shared with the ABC UK at the time, and the relevant copies were previously validated.We have already acknowledged publicly that while the copies were properly counted under ABC rules, the program itself was unnecessarily complex and not one we will replicate in the future.”
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Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade argued that ABC’s review “is a whitewash.” In Greenslade’s Jan. 4 blogpost, he called the review “among the blandest of its kind” and “wholly unconvincing.” He also questioned how “thorough” the review was because he found it to be “a limited, technical and equivocal finding.”
Of Dow Jones press release and the ABC findings, he wrote:
“Most significantly, the greatest failing of both statements is the omission of any mention of the fact that the scandal came to light in the wake of the resignation of Dow Jones’s European managing director, Andrew Langhoff.”
He also questioned why ABC didn’t comment on the articles that Wall Street Journal Europe published in exchange for ELP to buy so many copies of the newspaper. He included a list of questions about the whole incident including: “Who at Dow Jones knew what and when did they know it? Who was responsible for the contra deal? Should such deals receive ABC’s blessing?”