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FAQ for New and Would-Be Publishers

Circulation

1. What is circulation?

Circulation refers to the process of reaching readers, and is sometimes overlooked by new and would-be publishers. While little known to laypeople, circulation is extremely significant to magazine publishing.

There are many different models of circulation. Readers can be reached through subscriptions, the newsstand, and in other venues, and a magazine can either have paidcirculation or free circulation. The difference lies in whether people pay to read your magazine or whether they pick it up or have it delivered to them for free.

There are some  basic truths about circulation: Canadian magazines are driven by subscription revenues; renewals are cheaper to attain than new readers from the newsstand; and circulation is immensely useful in researching and understanding your readers, which means it’s important to your advertisers.

To learn more about circulation, check out the Professional Development section of our website. You can also consult these resources: Small Magazine Circulation HandbookOnline Circulation PromotionsSubscription Sources That Really WorkMake Your Renewal Series Sing and Business Tips For Literary Magazines.

2. How do I get a business reply envelope or card?

Set up a Business Reply account through Canada Post.

3. Can I estimate the circulation size of my new magazine?

You can rent one or several lists from other magazines, organizations or brokers, do a targeted direct mail campaign, and estimate your potential circulation size from your response rates. You can launch your magazine in tandem with another publication, and use that controlled number as your circulation base as a start. Compare your title to others already in existence that share certain characteristics. Do market research—if yours is a consumer title, find out about consumer habits (including media habits) using the Print Measurement Bureau’s data. These are all good ways of estimating circulation.

4. How much should my subscriptions cost?

Look at what your closest competitors are charging. Note: It’s customary for the subscription price to be significantly lower than the cover price (what it costs to buy on a newsstand). Some magazines set a range of different subscription prices that correlate to different campaign offers. You can also take a survey of subscription cards that fall out of magazines on the rack, then calculate the subscription discounts that magazines are offering. Set your subscription rates accordingly, higher or lower, based on your circulation strategy.

5. Lots of people tell me they love my magazine, so where are all the subscribers?

Editorial does not usually sell itself. Circulation campaigns, including marketing and promotions, produce subscribers. Think about ways to get the word out about your magazine, and capture the people who enjoy it.

6. Why do some magazines come with my newspaper?

This is a type of controlled circulation. The magazine publisher gets to claim a high and established circulation rate base for their advertiser in the magazine, which in turn brings in revenue to the magazine. The magazine is then distributed to the readers of the newspaper for a price. The newspaper claims added value for their readers and the magazine garners a much larger audience.

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