Monday, June 8, 2015

Magazine and Newspaper
Circulation Figures

There are a lot of ways that software developers can increase their sales by forming partnerships with magazines and newspapers:

  • You might want to buy space advertising in well-targeted publications. 
  • You can enhance your credibility by writing articles and having them published. 
  • You may want to email the editors a press release. 
  • You might want to negotiate with magazine publishers to get your trial version included in their cover discs on the few publications that still offer cover discs.

Understanding circulation figures

To decide which publications to pursue, you need to know their circulation figures. That is, you have to ask, "How many paid and nonpaid copies enter the marketplace each month?" While this sounds like a simple question, there are deceptive practices that make it tricky.

Few publications lie about their circulation figures. They have found ways, however, to publish numbers that are accurate, though misleading:

  • Some consumer magazines count readers during the year-end holidays, when gift subscriptions peak. 
  • Some trade magazines and newsletters have inflated distribution figures because they print extra copies that are given away at trade shows. 
  • Some magazines have special editions (for example, swimsuit issues or annual buyers' guides) that result in spikes in their print runs. 
  • Magazines can show substantial increases in circulations by launching "subscribe now and we'll bill you later" campaigns, even if these advertising campaigns don't result in a large number of additional long-term subscriptions.

Audience numbers

The most confusing figures that magazines and newspapers release are their audience numbers. In addition to circulation numbers, they add in the estimated pass-around figures for individual magazines and newspapers. And they factor in the publications that are distributed in public places, from barber shops to doctors' office waiting rooms. Estimated audience numbers are often three or four times as large as circulation numbers.

Circulation audit bureaus

Decades ago, the publishers, advertising agencies, and advertisers decided to form circulation auditing bureaus to eliminate fraud and deception. If people believe the audited circulation numbers, then advertisers will buy space with confidence, and all three groups win.

In the US, the two largest auditing organizations are Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) - www.accessabc.com - and BPA Worldwide (BPA) - www.bpaww.com. Both bureaus have rigorous rules for defining circulation. They have professional auditors. And they have no sense of humor for magazines or newspapers that try to break the rules.

These bureaus audit both paid publications and the controlled circulation magazines that are free to qualified subscribers. Publishers state their six-month average circulation figures, and the auditors check the publishers' records, and issue their findings.

Individual subscription sales are fairly easy to verify. The "bill me later" subscribers that I'd mentioned earlier are not counted, unless the subscribers have actually paid.

Sponsored subscriptions

Sponsored subscriptions are also easy to monitor. Sponsored subscriptions are subscriptions of eleven or more copies of a publication that are delivered to the same address, and paid for by a single payee (for example, the hundreds of Wall Street Journal subscriptions that are delivered every morning to each of the insurance company home offices here in the greater-Hartford Connecticut area where I live).

Retail magazine sales

Auditing retail sales - the single copies that are sold through newsstands, supermarkets, airports, and convenience stores - is a lot trickier. But the audit bureaus have been doing this for a long time, and their numbers are reliable and respected in the industry.

What should software developers do?

Magazines and newspapers will continue to publish their audience numbers. They argue, correctly, that only by adding their pass-around numbers to their circulation numbers can they create a true figure that allows advertising buyers to compare their publications' reach with broadcast audiences.

But if you're looking for accurate circulation figures, you can rely upon the ABC and BPA numbers. Most publications that accept advertising use one of these bureaus. ABC and BPA figures are the safest way of knowing that the circulation figures are accurate.

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