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_There are newspapers in many a city that are, single handed, able to build up businesses._ Their circulation is solid muscle and sinew--_all pull_. It isn't the number of copies _printed_ but the number of copies that reach the hands of buyers--it isn't the number of _readers_ but the number of readers with _money_ to spend--it isn't the _bulk_ of a circulation but the amount of the circulation which is _available_ to the advertiser--it isn't _fat_ but _brawn_--that tell in the long run.
There are certain earmarks that indicate these strengths and weaknesses.
They are as plain to the observing eye as the signs of the woods are significant to the trapper. The _news_ columns tell you what you can expect out of the _advertising_ columns. A newspaper _always finds_ the cla.s.s of readers to which it is _edited_. When its mental tone is _low_ and its moral tone is _careless_ depend upon it--_the readers match the medium_.
No gun can hit a target _outside_ of its range. No newspaper can aim its policy in _one_ direction and score in _another_. No advertiser can find a different cla.s.s of men and women than the publisher has found for himself. He is judged by the company he keeps. _If he lies down with dogs he will arise with fleas._
The Cellar Hole and the Sewer Hole
A coal cart stopped before an office building in Washington and the driver dismounted, removed the cover from a manhole, ran out his chute, and proceeded to empty the load. An old negro strolled over and stood watching him. Suddenly the black man glanced down and immediately burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, which continued for several minutes. The cart driver looked at him in amus.e.m.e.nt. "Say, Uncle," he asked, "do you always laugh when you see coal going into a cellar?" The negro sputtered around for a few moments and then holding his hands to his aching sides managed to say, "_No, sah, but I jest busts when I sees it goin' down a sewer._"
The advertiser who displays lack of judgment in selecting the newspapers which carry his copy often confuses the _sewer_ and the _cellar_.
All the money that is put _into_ newspapers isn't taken _out_ again, by any means. The fact that all dailies possess a certain physical likeness, doesn't necessarily signify a similarity in character, and it's _character_ in a newspaper that brings returns. The editor who conducts a journalistic sewer, finds a _different_ cla.s.s of readers than the publisher who respects himself enough to respect his readers.
What goes into a newspaper largely determines the cla.s.s of homes into which the newspaper goes. An irresponsible, scandal-mongering, muck-raking sheet is certainly not supported by the buying cla.s.ses of people. It _may be_ perused by thousands of readers, but such readers are seldom purchasers of advertised goods.
It's the clean-cut, steady, normal-minded citizens who form the bone and sinew and muscle of the community. It's the sane, self-respecting, _dependable_ newspaper that enters their homes and it's the _home_ sale that indicates the strength of an advertising medium.
No clean-minded father of a family wishes to have his wife and children brought in contact with the most maudlin and ba.n.a.l phases of life. He defends them from the sensational editor and the unpleasant advertiser.
He subscribes to _a newspaper which he does not fear to leave about the house_.
Therefore, the respectable newspaper can always be counted upon to produce more sales than one which may even own a larger _circulation_ but whose distribution is in ten editions among unprofitable citizens.
You can no more expect to sell goods to people who _haven't money_, than you can hope _to pluck oysters from rose-bushes_.
It isn't the number of readers _reached_, but the number of readers whose _purses_ can be reached, that const.i.tutes the value of circulation. It's one thing to arouse _their attention_, but it's a far different thing to get _their money_. _The mind may be willing, but the pocketbook may be weak._
If you had the choice of a thousand acres of desert land or a hundred acres of oasis, you'd select the fertile spot, realizing that the larger tract had less value because it would be less productive.
The advertiser who really understands how he is spending his money, takes care that he is not pouring his money into _deserts and sewers_.
The Neighborhood of Your Advertising
Circulation is a commodity which must be bought with the same common sense used in selecting potatoes, cloth and real estate. _It can be measured and weighed_--it is _merchandise_ with a _provable_ value. It varies just as much as the grocer's green stuff, the tailor's fabrics and the lots of the real estate man.
Your cook refuses to accept green and rotten tomatoes at the price of perfect ones. She does not calculate the number of vegetables that are _delivered_ to her, but those that she _can use_. When your wife selects a piece of cloth she first makes sure that it will serve the purpose she has in view. When you buy a piece of property you consider _the neighborhood_ as well as the _ground_. Just so when you buy _advertising_ you must find out how much of the circulation you _can use_. You must judge the _neighborhoods_ where your copy will be read, with the same thoughtfulness that you devoted to selecting the spot where your goods are sold.
A dealer in precious stones would be foolish to open up in a tenement district, and equally short-sighted, to tell about his jewelry in a newspaper largely distributed there. Out of ten thousand men and women who might _see_ what he had to say not ten of them could _afford to buy his goods_. These ten thousand readers would be ma.s.s without muscle. He could make them _willing_ to do business with him, but _their incomes wouldn't let them become customers_.
One of the greatest mistakes in publicity is _to drop your lines where the fish can't take your bait_.
Circulation is, as you see, a very interesting subject, but very few people know anything about it. It would surprise you to know that this ignorance often extends to the business offices of newspapers. I have known publishers to continually mistake the _cla.s.s of_ their readers and have met hundreds of them who had the most fantastic ideas upon the figures of their circulation.
While I would not be so harsh as to accuse them of anything more than being _mistaken_, none the less their tendency to infect _others_ with this misinformation renders it extremely advisable for _you to_ become a member of the Missouri society--and "_be shown_."
Don't rely solely on circulation statements. You don't understand the tricks in their making. Make the newspaper which carries your advertis.e.m.e.nt show you the list of its advertisers. A newspaper which prints the most advertising, month after month, year after year, is always the best medium. This is equally true in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kenosha and Walla Walla.
The Mistake of the Big Steak
Watch out for _waste_ in circulation. Find out _where_ your story is going to be _read_. Don't pay for planting the seed of publicity in a spot where you are not going to _harvest_ the results.
The manufacturer of soap who has his goods on sale from Oskaloosa to Timbuctoo doesn't care _how widely_ a newspaper circulation is scattered. Whoever reads about his product is near to _some_ store or other where it is sold--but you have just _one_ store.
Buying advertising circulation is very much like ordering a steak--if the waiter brings you a porter-house twice as big as your _digestion_ can handle, you've paid twice as much as the steak was worth to _you_, even if it _is_ worth the price to the restaurant man.
You derive your profit not from the circulation that your _advertis.e.m.e.nt_ gets, but from circulation _that gets people to buy_.
If two newspapers offer you their columns and one shows a distribution almost entirely within the city and in towns that rely upon your city for buying facilities, your business can digest all of its influence. If the other has _as much circulation_, but only _one third_ of it is in _local territory_, mere bulk cannot establish its value to _you_--_it's another case of the big steak_--you pay for more than you can digest.
That part of its influence which is concentrated where men and women can't get your _goods_ after you get their _attention_, is _sheer waste_.
By dividing the number of copies he prints into his line rate, a publisher may fallaciously demonstrate to you that his s.p.a.ce is sold as low as that of his stronger compet.i.tors, but if half his circulation is too _far away to bring buyers_, his real _rate_ is double what it seems.
He is like the butcher who weighs in all the bone and sinew and fat and charges you as much for the _waste_ as he does for the _meat_.
The Omelette Souffle
There is a vast distinction between distribution for the sake of increasing the _circulation figures_ and distribution for the sake of increasing the number of _advertising responses_.
There is a difference between a circulation which strikes the _same_ reader several times in the _same_ day and the circulation which does _not_ repeat the individual. There is a difference between circulation which is concentrated into an area from which every reader can be expected to come to your establishment, if you can _interest_ him, and a circulation that spreads over half a dozen states and shows its greatest volume in territory so far from your establishment that you can't get a buyer out of ten thousand readers.
You've got to weigh and measure all these things when you weigh and measure circulation figures. It isn't the number of copies _printed_, but the number of copies _sold_--not the number of papers _distributed_, but the number of papers distributed in _responsive_ territory--not the number of readers _reached_, but the number of readers who have the price to _buy_ what you want to _sell_--that determine the value of circulation to _you_.
You can take a single egg and whip it into an omelette souffle which _seems_ to be a _whole plateful_, but the extra bulk is just _hot air_ and _sugar_--the change in form has not increased the amount of egg _substance_ and it's the _substance_ in circulation, just as it is the _nutrition_ in the egg, that _counts_.