NEWPORT BEACH — Some Orange Coast magazine advertisers want their money back after learning that the publication might have overstated its circulation numbers by more than twice the actual figure.
Owners of local companies said they were enticed into buying large ads in the glossy monthly magazine by Orange Coast promotional materials claiming distribution of 38,364, which includes paid as well as free copies.
That figure is more than twice the paid circulation of 15,878 certified for the year ended June 30 by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the independent group that checks such numbers for newspapers and magazines.
Orange Coast itself told the ABC after the reporting period ended that its paid circulation was 16,207, said ABC spokeswoman Ginny Sexton. Audited figures are important because they largely determine a publication's advertising rates.
The ABC is concerned, Sexton said, because Orange Coast has been using its so-called distribution number on advertising rate cards along with the ABC logo, leading some to believe mistakenly that the higher figure is an audited one.
Orange Coast Publisher Ruth Ko said Wednesday that she has taken the ABC logo off current rate cards, rather than change the higher number. She insists that her publication has done nothing wrong and "absolutely will not" refund any money.
Ko distinguished between paid circulation (the ABC number) and total distribution (the number of paid subscriptions plus giveaways).
"Advertisers don't care about distribution versus circulation," Ko said. "They care that the magazine gets out there and gets read. There is no deception here. Our advertisers know. We're not trying to delude anyone."
She said that up to 23,000 copies of the magazine are delivered free each month through hotels, newsstands, selected coffee houses and upscale businesses.
But some advertisers simply aren't buying the distribution idea.
Ronald Moser, a Newport Beach plastic surgeon, said he paid $25,000 for a year's worth of full-page ads based on what he thought was paid circulation.
"If an ad works or doesn't work, that's my responsibility. But we felt cheated because we weren't getting the circulation promised for the money we spent," Moser said.
Peggy Blondiaux, co-owner of pool table maker Beach Manufacturing in Santa Ana, said she has contacted her attorney to try to get the company out of the advertising contract signed last summer with Orange Coast.
"We're good, hard-working, honest people and we trust these venues to be honest and up front, and they weren't," Blondiaux said. "The advertising rate is based on circulation. Because they lied about it, I'm sure it bumped me to a higher rate."
Other advertisers, though, weren't as concerned about the huge discrepancy.
"I know how many people read Orange Coast magazine, and I'm comfortable with that," said Melani Hurwitz, an advertising agent for Plasticos Institute for Plastic Surgery in Newport Beach and other medical firms.
"The demographics are exactly what my clients want," she said. "Whatever we've put into Orange Coast has come back to us, and then some."