Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"240,000 potential buyers" explained, NCFocus vindicated


...at least with regard to this issue.

In a post from last week, we made the offhand claim that the "over 240,000 potential buyers" of your classified ad in The Union (circ. 16,000), a number claimed for nine months (ending Feb. 2004) on the masthead of the classifieds section itself (photo) and on a billboard at the edge of town, was arrived at by multiplying an estimated 40,000+ readers by the 6 days a week that the paper is published.

The Union's current (acting) editor wrote to inform us that our "40,000 x 6" algorithm was incorrect:
As for the long-standing myth of a classified reader overcount, that number [240,000] stemmed from the fact our classifieds were circulated throughout the Tahoe-Carson Area Network, which includes several newspapers in the Sierra.

We were simultaneously chastened and intrigued by this claim, and asked who could explain the count; a name was provided.

On the verge of sending the query, we received a gracious apology and retraction from The Union's editor:
I just found out yesterday that we ourselves have been a bit confused on where that "240,000 readers" number came from. The Tahoe network wasn't really involved. The man who came up with that figure is...[in the advertising department]....[He counted] the same listeners each day of the week. So your assessment was pretty accurate... I'm glad we're now using a better total.
I'm not sure where that TCAN idea originated. I think it's just because we started using that number at the same time we started distributing classifieds across Tahoe/Carson. I think I and some others just assumed they were connected....Like a lot of businesses, we don't always communicate internally as well as we'd like.

Jan. 12 clarification: Some have also questioned the 40,000+ daily readership for a 16,000-circ. paper, but from what we've read, this is a reasonable number. From the Audit Bureau of Circulations: "Readers-Per-Copy is not a constant factor across all markets. ...national 2.3 readers-per-copy average...[but enormous variability]"

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