Five Tips Friday: Analyzing a Publication’s CirculationWe’ve talked a lot here about how important it is to research print publications before you place your advertisements in that publication. This research is not just important in terms of evaluating the health of the publication but it’s also important because you want to try to determine if your ad will actually reach the right people. Back in July we talked about how BPA or AAM (formerly ABC, now Alliance for Audited Media) audits of circulation can give you a good look at your audience segmentation, but that conversation was more about arguing against the idea that audience segmentation is impossible in “traditional media” channels. Today, we’re going to offer you five tips on how to analyze a publication’s circulation effectively.
1. Total circulation over time – An audit of a publication’s circulation could tell you that the publication reaches 100,000 people. On the surface that sounds pretty good. However, it is important to look at trends in a publication’s circulation. Reaching 100,000 is good but if the publication’s circulation was 133,000 a year ago, you know there is a serious problem. On the other hand, if a publication’s circulation remains fairly consistent over a long period of time, you know they are monitoring the situation and are keeping tight reigns around their growth.
2. Requests for the publication – This might not sound particularly relevant to you, but in evaluating the health of a publication it’s very important and often missed. Every audit reports how “clean” a publication’s list is. In other words, does the publication check in with subscribers every year to make sure that subscriber still wants the publication? Does the publication clean their list every two years? These days, with as much job turn-over as there is, anything beyond two years is considered unacceptable. You can see how many subscribers have been qualified over what period of time, and if you see a high percentage of “3 years or more,” you know that the publication is not being diligent in re-qualifying the recipients. In the case of an unaudited publication, you must question whether the recipients are being qualified at all.
3. The “other” category – You can learn a lot about who a publication reaches by going through a circulation audit. However, most audits also show a category called “other.” You want to watch out for publications that have a high percentage of recipients in this category. If recipients can’t be clearly assigned to a key category the publication claims to reach, the publication may not be the ideal choice for you and your ads.
4. Job Titles – A good audit will not just break down the industries the publication reaches, but it will also tell you what job titles the publication reaches in those respective industries. If you are looking to target purchasing personnel, you will be able to tell at a glance whether the publication has a strong database of those people. Dig a little deeper and you can cross-reference strong reaches to certain industries with strong reaches to certain job titles, which can help your evaluation become even more effective.
5. Geography – There is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips in terms of what regions of the country or the world a publication reaches. Audits break the US down by standardized regions (Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, etc) and then the rest of the world by continent, followed by countries. If you are trying to reach an audience around a specific regional show, this can be particularly useful.
Don’t give in to the temptation of simply looking at what a publisher SAYS the total circulation is. An audited publication offers a lot of excellent insight into who is actually receiving the publication you are evaluating. Are those people potential customers of yours? Dig a little deeper and do the research. It will save you a lot of angst in the long run.
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