Sunday Age “outperforms the rest”

I’m always amused when one of the newspapers crows about the latest circulation figures.

THE Sunday Age continues to be the best-performing metropolitan newspaper in Australia, according to the latest circulation figures.

The newspaper recorded the best year-on-year growth to September 2011 of any daily, Saturday or Sunday newspaper in the country.

Sunday Age: Sunday Age outperforms the rest

It takes a particularly selective use of the figures to come up with the headline “outperforms the rest”. In the article they quote the Sunday Age’s circulation of 228,826, but fail to mention the circulation of their competitors.

Age vs Herald Sun circulation

The figures were all published last week. The Age is outstripped by their main competitor in Melbourne, the Herald Sun, every day of the week.

While it’s true that the Sunday Age is growing in circulation (by 2126 in a year apparently), I think it’s rather optimistic to claim it “outperforms the rest” when it’s only selling 41% of the competition, and at this rate of growth (and the current rate of loss for the Sunday Herald Sun), it’ll take another ten years to get equal.

Photo library

I think I can understand why the gunzels find this irritating. All media outlets do this kind of thing from time to time — I’m only using an image from the Herald Sun here because they happen this morning to be showing two on the same page.

They have a story, say, something about trains, so they grab the first image from their library that matches the right keywords, and use it, without checking if it’s from the right city.

Wrong pics from the image library

In this case, it appears the Doncaster line story is illustrated by a Sydney double-decker train (I’m no expert but it appears to be one of the new Millennium fleet), and the Seaford level crossing accident is illustrated by an Adelaide train at a level crossing — I recognise the Adelaide colour scheme, which is used on trains, trams and buses there. (It is a Comeng though.)

The Metro performance story is illustrated by the correct type of train and platform staff member. The picture may be a few months old, as most (but not all) of the Comeng fleet have now been done over in the new Metro colour scheme.

Perhaps one out of three ain’t bad.

It happens in other industries too. Those who work in IT will know that recruiters looking for people will try to fill jobs by looking for someone with a CV that matches some (but sometimes not all) of the keywords on the job description they’ve been handed by the employer… years ago I remember being asked if skill X1 was related to skill X2, because I had X1 but not the desired X2… alas, the skills were unrelated, or certainly not directly transferable.

Making your argument count

“That is right, 38 new trains, pity they are only 3 carriages long instead of 6 like our current trains. I guess that means we paid double.” — Comment on the Herald Sun web site

Seriously, where do people get these ideas? It’s complete garbage.

“Thirty eight X’Trapolis six-car sets will be rolled-out from late 2009 to 2011.” — Department of Transport web site

See, I’m all for bagging when it’s deserved, but this is just making stuff up. Where does that get you?

In any argument, it’s pointless coming out with some BS like that. If you want your view to be accepted, if you want your criticism to sting, don’t fire blanks — make sure you’re using live ammunition.

Research the facts, find out what’s actually true, that you can provide evidence for, and use that.

Who are these clowns whose Twitter posts get into the paper?

From last Saturday’s Herald Sun Weekend section:

Herald Sun Street Tweet 10/10/2009: Kangaroo Flat: apparently NOT named after an unfortunate wildlife accident.

It was sent when we were passing through Kangaroo Flat on the way to Bendigo the other week.

Train at Kangaroo Flat

(Thanks for spotting it, onegirlinmelb)

Fining lots of people is not the solution to fare evasion

Melbourne’s tram operator also set a target of catching more than 60,000 commuters over a nine-month period.

– Herald Sun, 11/9/2009, “Tram inspectors pushed to meet their quotas

See, after all these years, they’re still going about it the wrong way.

I don’t think the deterrent of fines is really working. The measure of success or failure in revenue protection should be the occurrence of fare evasion, not the number of fines issued.

Flinders St/Degraves St unstaffedSuccess is found by making it easy for people to buy a ticket, and hard for them to avoid it. To a certain extent you can see this in these Metlink fare evasion stats (from August 2009, and which include concession fraud):

  • Train 7.6% — most people use a staffed station at least one end of their trip, and the biggest patronage growth is based around trips to/from a handful of gated CBD stations
  • Bus 6.2% — traditionally low because people have to pass the driver when boarding
  • Tram 13.0% — higher in part due to the fact that passengers are unlikely to get their tickets checked at all on most trips

If there’s a large number of fines being issued year after year, it probably means there are still lots of people evading, as you can bet only a fraction of them are being caught.

Simple things like can help a lot, like consistent staffing.

Here’s an example of where, for all the bluster about fare evasion, sometimes the operators just don’t take it seriously:

Back in 2006 I noticed the Degraves St subway gates weren’t being staffed most of the time. I took notes for about a month, and found no staff were present most of the time, even in peak hour. And I started to see people who were obviously looking around to find an open gate into Flinders Street to catch trains for free.

So I did what any fare-paying customer who is sick of seeing others having a free ride would do: I issued a press release and organised a Herald Sun story!

WHILE the Government subsidises a $1 million advertising blitz to shame fare evaders, tens of thousands of commuters are flowing through open barriers at Melbourne’s busiest train station.

– Herald Sun, 25/8/2006 — “Fare evaders find the gaps”

A Connex spokesperson blamed reduced staff numbers due to illness, but miraculously following that, everybody got better, and staffing of that exit jumped to 100%.

Degraves Street exit staffing graph

The operators shouldn’t need to be told this stuff via the newspapers. It should be obvious.

Random patrols and over-zealous fines haven’t worked. Put staff back on the system, make it easy to pay, and hard not to, and evasion will drop.

By the way: technically Inspectors are Authorised Officers, who are employees of the private operators who are authorised by the government with powers under Transport Act. And they don’t issue fines directly, they write out a Record Of Non-Compliance (RONC) which goes to the Department of Transport, which then decides whether or not to issue the fine. The operating company gets $30 from the fine.