FAQ – Circulation vs. Readership

Here is a fantastic question that came up from the post on newspaper advertising: Circulation vs. Readership

Most newspaper ad sales people like to tell advertising customers the paper’s circulation is, for example, 500,000. The number of people who actually read the newspaper is always much less than the circulation. It could be as low as half the circulation number. Circulation and readership are very different and if you don’t know the difference, you could waste a bundle of money thinking your ad is reaching more people than it does. Circulation is the number of papers that are distributed to subscribers and sold at places like grocery stores. They often give away free copies in order to keep the circulation numbers high. Readership is the real number you should pay attention to. It doesn’t matter how many papers are distributed. What matters is the number of people who read the paper during a given week. When an ad salesperson tells you the paper’s circulation numbers, be sure to ask for the readership numbers as well. Big newspapers have lots of research data about readership, time spent reading the paper, the number of readers that read each day of the week and lots more. Ask to see their data, and use it.

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