Expanding Circulation

Mindful of the woes being endured by print media – including books, newspapers, magazines – publishers have chosen to drop the medium altogether (e.g., Newsweek magazine), completely close up shop (a list too long to repeat), or, in the periodicals industry, create ways to enhance circulation.

We’ve long known that time-bound outlets such as newspapers and magazines have pass-along capacity. Inadvertently or by intention.

Who hasn’t picked up and begun reading the newspaper abandoned by the customer previously parked at our lunch table?

What else is there to do at the doctor’s or dentist’s office except paw through the publications nested in racks or arranged on nearby tables?

And don’t supermarkets place magazines by the checkout stations in order for we organized customers to have something to do while impatiently waiting for the nimrod in front of us who fumbles for their credit card or, worse, checkbook? (Even worse: the person who will dig through pockets or purse in order to find the correct change – even when the amount is 92 cents – no matter how long it takes them.)

For the longest time, I was convinced People magazine was only present at such locations for exactly this reason, since I could not imagine anyone paying to subscribe to it.

While people may be loathe to discard books – is that a true statement? – the periodicals industry finds its place temporary at best. In some instances, downright fleeting.

How is pass-along capacity measured? Or is it simply an estimate? Who does the measuring or estimating and following which procedures?

Every weekday, I pass along my copy of the local daily newspaper. After spending a dollar for the copy and taking the (enjoyable) 45 minutes to read it, I deliver it to the next reader. (Hmm, put that way, this doesn’t sound like such a good deal. For me.)

It’s as though I once again have a paper route. Except this time, I’m doing the paying instead of getting paid. Delivery is the only constant.

Remarkably, neither my Time magazine nor Rolling Stone has an after-life once I’m through with them. Sadly, the same fate awaits Columbia Journalism Review. They go right to the recycling bin.

A multi-section newsprint monthly, Maine Antique Digest, on the other hand, goes through two additional readers. One of whom is bold enough to claim to be the subscriber!

Pass-along providers proudly pat themselves on the back for being Green. Sustainable. Environmentally conscious and sensitive. Conveniently ignoring the initial environmental infraction.

None of this re-use/recycling, of course, adds to periodicals’ revenue streams.

Though it does add to advertisers’ reach. Not to mention that of the journalists’.

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