Audience Development is the new Circulation

Rick Major, the circulation manager for Kamloops Daily News, tells me that he's new to newspaper circulation, having spent the majority of his career in marketing. But after just over an hour of Hugh McGarry's session on audience development, he begins to see how his background is a huge asset in today's news industry. 

Audience development is the new word for circulation, basically, because it’s about reach and how you monetize your audience,” McGarry said before his presentation at the opening Wednesday of Ink + Beyond, the annual conference hosted by the Canadian Newspaper Association, the Canadian Community Newspapers Association and the Canadian Circulation Management Association.

Throughout the session, McGarry who works at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, emphasizes the importance of the circulation department working more closely with advertising, driving revenue per household and ensuring that circulation is growing in areas that offer advertising opportunities.

"Grow where the clients are," says McGarry. It's a very simple concept, but one that didn't used to be emphasized in circulation. It used to be all about volume, McGarry points out. Nowadays, to preserve the newspaper, circulation and advertising need to work hand-in-hand to ensure that circulation is increasing where the advertisers are.

McGarry kicked off a one-day audience development super session organized by the Canadian Circulation Management Association at Toronto's Sheraton Centre. Ink + Beyond continues Thursday and Friday.

"I think I have a bit of an advantage over some of the circulation people because I already am thinking that way, so it's going to be an easier transition for me to go back to the ad department and say, 'Hey, we need to work on getting our circulation and ad department working together with pre-prints,'" says Major from the Daily News.

"The idea of growing your business where the inserts would be most profitable is interesting, because I never thought of it that way," he adds, admitting that volume used to be his focus.

Gary Myers, the vice-president of circulation and marketing at the Hamilton Spectator, agrees.

"I think McGarry is bang-on with the audience development side of things," says Myers.

"Circulation is more than just paid copies, it's developing audience and finding different ways to capitalize on revenue opportunities from those audiences."

McGarry's session paints an optimistic picture for the future of newspapers. Newspapers aren't going to go extinct any time soon; but need to be smarter about where and how they seek to increase circulation so that they can attract more advertisers, as well as find new ways to retain readership.

That means packing content with online add-ons for subscribers, putting out niche products and doing more research on readership, says McGarry.

New circulation technology will give newspapers what the Spectator's Myers describes as “the technical ability to be able to look at individual households and who lives in those individual households and know who’s left-handed or who buys a Ford or who buys a Chevy."