Are You Using the Most Abused Circulation Statistic Correctly?

Readers per edition is a tricky circulation statistic that many publishers use incorrectly and then mistakenly inflate total readership numbers. In order to provide clients with accurate total readership data, Circulation Verification Council collects information about readership and receivership during their circulation audit. Both scores are necessary when calculating total readership.

How Home-Delivered and Mailed Publications Calculate Total Readership
To determine the total average number of readers, home-delivered and mailed publications must take receivership and readership percentages into account. Publications that are home delivered or mailed cannot simply multiply their circulation by the number of readers per edition to determine total readership. Publishers must consider those publications not delivered and those publications not read by the households that receive them. Let’s look at how a publisher accurately calculates the total readership of his home-delivered or mailed publication, The Gazette.

The Gazette (home-delivered or mailed)
Net circulation: 10,000
Percent of households that receive publication: 99 percent
Percent of households that read publication: 75 percent
Average readers per edition: 1.70

The publisher must first calculate the number of households that actually receive the publication. To do this, multiply the net circulation (10,000) by the percentage of households that receive the publication (99 percent), arriving at 9,900. Next, multiply the number of people that receive the publication (9,900) by the percentage of people that indicate they read it on a regular basis (75 percent), or 7,425. Now you can calculate total readership by multiplying 7,425 by the average readers per edition (1.70). On average, The Gazette has 12,623 total readers per edition.

How Controlled Bulk/Demand Distribution Publications Calculate Total Readership
Controlled bulk, or demand distribution, publications have an easier time determining their readership. To calculate total readership, they simply multiply the average net circulation (average gross distribution less returns) by their readers per copy. It’s assumed that anyone picking up a copy of the publication reads or looks at it. Let’s look at how a publisher of a controlled bulk publication, The Times accurately calculates total readership.

The Times (controlled bulk or demand distribution)
Net Circulation: 10,000
Average readers per edition: 1.70

The publisher simply multiplies net circulation (10,000) by the average readers per edition (1.70). On average, The Times has 17,000 total readers per edition.

The Last Word
The CVC database contains more than 4,400 publication editions with combined audited circulation of over 65,000,000. Each year CVC surveys hundreds of thousands of print readers across the country. The national average for readers per edition in the CVC system is 1.75.

Do you have a competitor using exaggerated “readership” numbers? You can use the following statistics and a little common sense to help sell your publication.

• On average, most publications are 75 percent home-delivered, while the remaining 25 percent of copies are distributed via controlled bulk or single copy.
• The average household in the United States has 2.66 residents, but only 1.98 of residents are over the age of 18.
• In order to average 2.5 readers per copy, every adult in a home-delivered household must read the publication, and four or more readers must read each issue distributed via controlled bulk.

While it’s true that some publications have this high of a number of readers per edition, they are few and far between. Make sure you accurately portray your publication’s facts.

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