Monitoring Circulation Numbers: Navigating the Numbers

For many media buyers, circulation numbers have long been a puzzle, and that process certainly isn’t getting any easier.  Sure, there are plenty of tools at your disposal, but each one seems to tell a different story.  So which numbers are most important and how do you find the right stats for each particular client need?

Objective:  Comparing the best papers across multiple major metros.

  • What numbers matter?
    • In this scenario, it’s best to compare publications using their total full-run circulation numbers and review the Metro area (MSA) percent penetration numbers, which will take into account overall households for each market and give you a fairer comparison for metro areas of varying sizes. 
  • Where to find it:
    • For this info you can turn to the SRDS circulation figures or the individual newspaper audits that are released through Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).  Both of these tools require subscriptions.



Objective: Finding the best publications across an entire DMA, or multiple DMA’s.

  • What numbers matter?
    • In this scenario, it’s best to compare publications using their total full-run circulation, and review the multiple counties within each DMA, along with county penetration numbers.  By doing so, you can take into account overall households for each county, which will give you a fairer comparison of the reach of each publication into a more specific geographic window.
  • Where to find it:
    • For this info you can turn to SRDS circulation figures or the individual newspaper audits that are released through Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).  Both of these tools require subscriptions.



Objective: Matching local papers to specific retail locations across a region.

  • What numbers matter?
    • In this scenario, it’s best to compare publications using their county penetration numbers and individual circulations by ZIP code.   This comparison will give you the best idea of which papers distribute into the ZIP codes of most importance.
  • Where to find it:
    • For this info you can review the newspapers audit statements via Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), or, for a more comprehensive list and report, turn to a print media placement company (perhaps MANSI Media? - please excuse the shameless plug).

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