Dan Brogan, president of the City & Regional Magazine Association, said, “Advertisers want to know that they’re going with a publication that readers actually want to read. They’re demanding more than just a pretty face. Second, a paid circulation model forces you, as an organization, to have a relationship with your readers in a way that just doesn’t happen when you’re…mailing them out to bulk lists.” (As quoted by Folio Magazine)
When I started the paper, my plan was to give away Macon The News for four weeks to every household, business and post office box in the 63552 ZIP code, as well as people out of town who requested it. We are sticking to that plan: today is our eighth issue, marking the end of week four of free distribution. Starting this Wednesday, February 18, we will only mail this newspaper to subscribers.
Even though Mr. Brogan works with local magazines, his quote (above) holds true for local newspapers as well. Readers have more loyalty to something they’ve paid for than what they receive for free. In addition, in-depth journalism has historically never been free; someone (advertisers, subscribers, or a combination of both) has always paid for top-notch editorial content in print, broadcast and online formats.
“No advertiser quite knows what makes an advertisement sell, but everyone knows that an advertisement will not sell if the reader does not really want the publication. In fact, an advertisement in such a publication unsells the product and advertisers stop using it.” —Peter Drucker, Adventures of a Bystander, p. 238
When you are vested in the newspaper as a paid subscriber, you care more about it. You will read more articles and watch your mailbox for it to come twice each week.
In addition, the advertisers know exactly how many households are actually reading the paper (instead of trying to guess how many read a controlled circulation flyer like a shopper or trader). With a freebie you can’t determine how many copies people are actually opening and reading.
We have set the bar so high with our news content and visual design that we do not want to print thousands of copies that just become a junk mail piece. Our newspaper is for news, for scrapbooks, and for clipping ads to take with you as you go shopping; it is not for a straight track from the printing press to the landfill. We don’t want to have thousands of copies going straight to the trash or recycle bin; that is an unnecessary waste of paper, ink and other valuable resources.
When our audience really cares about the paper, we can continue to produce a high-quality product. And you do: we’ve received a flood of mail and people coming to our door with letters to the editor and subscriptions.
If you haven’t subscribed yet, we invite you to do so before rates go up on March 1. You will receive your paper in the mail.
So, is paid circulation better than unpaid circulation? Time will tell. This is only the beginning.