Metropolis Circulation: “Up to…” no good

During the years Mary and I grew Metropolis magazine we gave value to clients by creating an honest relationship with them. We printed and distributed a verifiable number of copies so that advertisers could get results because quite simply no results = no magazine.

In 2000, tired of our competitors lying about our circulation while falsely boosting their own numbers, I took steps to certify Metropolis’ circulation with Japan’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Metropolis was the first and only English magazine to get certified by ABC and until I sold the magazine to Terrie Lloyd it was certified as producing 30,000 copies each week. Sadly, due to Lloyd’s mismanagement, the magazine is a shadow of its former self and only publishes bi-weekly with a meager 32 pages.

Some time ago, I noticed that Metropolis had changed its masthead to say:

Metropolis is the only English-language magazine certified in Japan by ABC, Audit Bureau of Circulations. Up to 30,000 printed copies per issue guaranteed

What does “up to…” mean? Does that mean they can produce a single copy and say to advertisers, “Well I told you it was up to 30,000! What are you complaining about!?”?

More seriously, “Up to 30,000 copies” is not the kind of language that is acceptable for ABC, which requires that actual amount of copies that have been certified to appear next to the ABC Logo mark. The wording Metropolis is using is an attempt to pretend that Metropolis has higher distribution than it says it has, so that its owners — whoever they are — can charge more money from clients for doing less work.

However, last week on Facebook, Metropolis staff inadvertently revealed the truth – by publishing a picture of Metropolis delivery notice for only 20,020 copies:

Metropolis printer’s delivery note/ Photo taken by Metropolis staff and posted on Facebook.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed. After a complaint, this week ABC visited the Metropolis office to tell its management to change the number printed in the magazine..


You don’t need to be able to read Japanese to work it out.  In 2012 for the 7th month (July) to the 12th month (December) the number of copies has declined tremendously.

It’s likely that Metropolis management will now say that they are producing an average of 26,154 copies, but it’s clear that since November 2012 they have been producing only 20,000 copies/issue. All while claiming in the magazine they have “up to 30,000 copies guaranteed.”

Even the current issue (April 12, 2013) — the one where the Metropolis staff posted a picture of  20,000 copies — claims to have “up to 30,000 copies”. Guaranteed.

Up to 30,000 copies

And in the promo text for a contest for their upcoming 1000th issue:

What’s also interesting from the ABC documentations is that only 15,922 copies are going to Tokyo. So compared with the 30,000 copies that were printed before, clients are effectively getting half the circulation. No wonder cost/performance is so poor.

It remains to be seen if Metropolis will lower their excessively expensive ad rates to a realistic level that suit their lower distribution.

I can imagine that most clients will be quite upset to learn that “up to 30,000 copies” has, for well over six months, been just “15,922 copies in Tokyo”. If I was a client I would demand a refund and if that did not come, I would consider suing for breach of contract.

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