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As the number of credit unions continue to drop, the number of paid subscribers for most credit union publications has either been static or declining. Yet some publications are advertising growing numbers of subscribers and readers. How can this be? As everyone knows, the honest way to measure the real circulation of any publication is to count only the total number of paid subscriptions, not the freebies. Maybe that’s why some CU publications never talk about “paid” subscribers, much preferring to talk about their “subscribers” and “readers” instead? Although they are reluctant to admit it, to these publications, a “subscriber” is anyone receiving their publication that has a connection with the credit union industry. Most such “subscribers,” usually CU staffers, actually get the publication absolutely free, sometimes for years and years. Even publications that brag about an independent audit can easily mislead. Audit firms allow paid subscribers and freebie “subscribers” to be lumped together as long as the recipients of the publication are involved with CUs and thus “qualified.” These same publications also talk about their “readers.” Everyone who receives their publication, even when most are freebies, is lumped together. That number is then multiplied times the “pass along rate.” For example, it counts all those folks on routing slips. Using the “reader” system of counting, Credit Union Times, which has the highest pass along rate among all national CU publications, would have approximately 50,000 readers of each weekly issue, a number not nearly as important as the nearly 10,000 (and rising) paid subscribers. Fortunately playing games with circulation numbers to basically try and sell more advertising fools no one. -

Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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