ABC's position in the games media industry is under threat.
Top press execs have questioned the relevance of the readership tracker following the latest round of results. All games magazines lost readers compared with last year's figures, some by as much as 25 per cent.
But this isn't reflective of the state of the media industry, say editors. They point to increased web traffic, growing events and better social engagement.
How we convey scale can no longer be sufficiently achieved by looking at print circulations and web traffic in isolation,” said Future's commercial planning director Steve Payne.
Social media, video channels, mobile engagement and live events all contribute to a far greater footprint than the ‘industry standard' measurements allow.
As of the end of January 2012, looking at print, tablet magazine purchases and web traffic, Future's portfolio of games brands reach over 2m people in the UK per month. Our social media reach stands at 285,000 on Facebook and 168,000 on Twitter. We have almost 30,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel.”
Imagine editor-in-chief Aaron Asadi agrees that ABC numbers are not enough but insists we should not downplay the figures.
ABCs simply measure performance for only one type of media from a brand's selection box. And as that type of media is no longer selling as well as it used to, the temptation is to understate the importance of the figures and point everyone in the direction of unique users, followers, listeners and likes.
It's symptomatic of an industry that for too long has been obsessed with numbers rather than products. The bigger the number, the better the platform is the rule, putting magazines, websites and social media on equal footing. But that's wrong. Reach figures show breadth, not depth – they don't measure the quality of the experience.
We are developing new channels all the time – apps, social networks, websites. We now have a monthly reach of nearly 3m – but we never forget that print magazines offer a tactile experience like no other.
The new ABC results are disappointing. But we won't shy away and pretend they're now irrelevant because we have a Twitter account.”
He added: There is space for an organisation to offer single print and digital certificates. Right now it's hard to say that the ABC satisfies this evolved remit; its position in the games media industry is vulnerable.”