Goofy answer? Not really, because it depends on the answer you get from the question, "What is your circulation?"
Some print salespeople will launch into a discussion of "readership". I'm always sceptical of that. "Readership" can be a fuzzy number. Often, based on a thread of scientific rational, it is just a multiplying number. Circulation times potential readers = Readership. So, let's say the newspaper or magazine "circulates" 100,000 copies of their product to 100,000 addresses. Then they decide, based again on sometimes questionable data, the number of people in each household that reads the product.
I've seen multipliers as high as 7 and as low as 2.5 per household. In a way it's kind of funny...because often as circulation drops (which is the case today with most newspapers) the "readership" number starts to climb.
The bottom line here is buyer beware. If the question is about "circulation" but the conversation gets steered to "readership" be careful.
Back to "circulation". Sometimes print media actually publishes their circulation. For example, The Des Moines Register regularly makes public their circulation numbers in a several ways as do most major dailys. You simply need to check the numbers and then decide if your are getting real value for your investment.
However, some companies refuse to discuss circulation or readership. One that I'm familiar with is a very successful company, Sandhills Publishing out of Nebraska. They have a number of trade publications and when we ask about circulation we are told, "We don't publish those numbers we just promise results." Ahhhh...OK.
Mike Winter, a friend and sometime client, from Worthington Ag Parts published a blog about one of the divisions of Sandhills Publishing...but he didn't name them. (It is Tractor House). The Blog is a pretty scathing review of not only circulation issues but also their method of increasing prices to their advertisers.
So why this discussion? As with everything it is "buyer beware". You simply need to do the research and KNOW what you are buying. Sadly many companies don't and they can get "hosed".
Oh...and if the publishing company you are considering says they can prove to you their "circulation" by offering you "postal receipts". Have we got a story for you...but that will be another post down the line.
Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations where we can help you crunch the numbers...if you want.