Help Along A Friend...Mike Sansone
Rural Lifestyle Radio & A New Baby!

Postal Receipts - Do They Prove Circulation?

Mail_box It's a question I often get when visiting with a client about various types of magazines and newspapers. 

The short answer is, "No."

The much longer answer, and the reason for this blog continues:

When we buy space for a client in a print publication we always explain to our client "why" we choose one publication over another.  One of the criteria is "circulation".  Or, "who" is getting the magazine and "how many copies" does the publication company distribute.

Pretty fair questions...right?

Publishing companies who offer "free" publications often point to "Postal Receipts" as "proof of their circulation or distribution".  But it can be misleading.  How so?

Postal_truck Let's say you want to buy space in a magazine or paper that offers as "proof" of  circulation a postal receipt.  You look at that receipt and think to yourself.  "Wow, they mailed 50,000 copies to Bucksaw County Kansas!  Good enough for me."

But, who got them?  Did they read them and then use them at the bottom of a bird cage?  How many were returned because of bad addresses? 

Not enough information.

I know several farm publications that do not audit their circulation and when asked about circulation and readership they will say, "We'll send you our postal receipts." 

Mailboxes_003 Got zip code information on the receipt?  "Nope"

So, where did they go?  "To farmers, trust us."

I know of at least one company that printed 5,500 copies of a magazine but told their advertisers they mailed 50,000.  And, they would provide postal receipts to prove it.  In this case they did. However the advertiser decided to double check.  The postal receipt was forged.  The publisher went to jail.  But it had been going on month after month for several years.  Who knew?

Oh, they would mail out a couple of copies of the printed piece to advertisers to "prove" the magazine was done.  And, they did mail out 5,000 copies.  It was just a matter of adding a zero...making a photo copy and PRESTO!

There are better ways to assure circulation numbers like audit statements from companies that actually match up the records or paid subscription numbers that are also audited.  Remember, these audits cost money...which does drive up the cost of advertising space.  The question you have to ask:  "Is it worth it to know the facts?"

Or, you can simply..."Trust us."

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we always have our clients they can trust us.