Circulation has always been a crucial part of print journalism as it shows the reach and possible accessibility of the publication by readers. A newspaper ultimately stands or falls on the basis of the number of steady readers that can be enrolled.
What is Circulation?
Circulation refers to the number of copies of a publication distributed through various channels so that audience members can have access to it. Circulation could take place through different such as direct mail, online platforms or physical distribution. Circulation is important because it helps to understand how many readers can possibly gain access to a publication, how many eyes are on a publication and its contents.
Note that circulation is different from readership. While circulation refers to a count of how many copies of a particular edition of a newspaper are distributed, readership is an estimate of the total number of readers a publication has. A copy of a newspaper, most times, is read by more than one person. So readership figure is oftentimes, more than circulation figure.
In newspaper publishing, circulation helps in audience base expansion which invariably leads to expansion of the newspaper. Increased circulation means the newspaper is put in front of more potential and actual readers online or offline. This can be achieved through online platforms including various social media outlets, emails, or physical distribution of the publication.
Importance of Circulation in Community Newspaper Publishing
Whether it is rural, national or global newspaper business, circulation plays very crucial role in determining the success of any publication. Through circulation the interest of readers in the newspaper is raised. They see the publication and get excited about consuming it and then asking for more. Advertisers are interested in publications with wide circulation and readers. Wide circulation could help in ensuring wide readership because more people would get to know that the newspaper exists.
Wide circulation could lead to more readers having interest to readers having interest to read a newspaper and this invariably creates revenue because advertisers are attracted to newspapers with wide readership. Again, if circulation is based on subscriptions it means that paid subscribers would provide revenue for the publication. So newspaper circulation drives revenue by creating new and returning buyers of the publication, including an expanded audience base which attracts advertisers to the publication.
Community newspapers require good circulation strategies to remain in business. Though there is a dwindling sale of physical copies of newspapers across the world, the digital space has provided wide opportunities for newspapers to be circulated and read across the globe, and this includes rural community newspapers. What matters is to find a way to get the newspaper in front of target audience whether online or offline using the right strategy.
Types of Circulation for Community Newspapers
There are different kinds of circulation which rural community newspaper publishers could consider in getting their products across to potential and actual audience members. This could be done online or offline.
Single copy paid circulation: This is where copies of the newspaper sold at newsstands, racks, retail outlets, etc. as opposed to a subscription where readers pay ahead by way of net payment to get each edition delivered to them when they are published.
Free circulation: This is where copies of the newspaper that are distributed free of charge to consumers. This could also be done through the newsstands where people can pick them for free. It could also be done using a door to door approach for delivery at residential locations to reach the audience directly. They could be distributed through racks at nonresidential locations such as racks at bus stops, supermarkets, dropping the publication at social spots, transit points, supermarkets, locations such as doctors’ offices, restaurants, hospitals, etc. for use by their patrons. This includes other places where readers could pick them for free.
Subscription: This refers to where readers pay monthly, quarterly or yearly fees for the publication to be sent to them online or offline. This could be individual subscription which is where individuals make net payment for the newspaper to be delivered to their homes or given location. It could be group subscription where copies of the newspaper are purchased by an employer intended for their employees. This is also a kind of business paid circulation strategy where companies buy the newspapers and deliver to their staff. What it means is that the company subscribes for the newspaper (group subscription) and distributes to staff. There is also the traveler paid circulation strategy which is also a form of group subscription where or instance, a hotel buys copies of the newspaper and delivers to guests in their rooms and the copies are kept at the lobby for guests to pick them up. There is another type of traveler paid circulation called guest-paid hotel distribution strategy where copies of the newspaper are paid for by the guests of a hotel (built into fees paid for each room). In this instance, guests have the option to accept or decline the newspaper. Any guest that declines the newspaper must get a refund for the cost of the paper(s) purchased on their behalf.
Online/Social media circulation: This refers to where the newspaper is distributed for free through Facebook, Whatsapp, twitter and such other platforms to reach diverse readers online. The online version of the community newspaper could get to a wider audience through this means. With the decreased use of hardcopies of newspapers as audience interests shifted to the digital space, e-papers became a trend they appealed to more readers who use them to stay abreast with the latest developments. This also increased the circulation of newspaper PDF copies online through WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
Email: Where editions of the newspaper are mailed directly to readers who are on the contact list of the publication. Digital versions of a newspaper can be uploaded as PDF copies and mailed to readers using a mailing list available to the establishment.