Have you seen the numbers lately? Brands and marketers like to leverage numbers to create a (desired) reception based on reader perception. Obviously, bigger numbers reflect more popularity and added reason for investors to celebrate.
The New York Times issued a recent article on Facebook, calling attention to a subjective view of numbers. For instance, the Facebook brand counts 845 million monthly users and counts 483 million as “active” daily users. That’s mighty impressive, especially if you’re an investor, taking interest in the brand’s IPO.
However, as the Times article indicates, Facebook is pushing numbers based on its own definitions; the self-serving positioning of numbers is no novel sentiment. Magazine advertisers have been doing it for a long time, attracting more takers for in-magazine placement.
Facebook makes a large portion of its revenue from online ad placement. It makes cents for them to reflect healthy numbers, intriguing more takers. As another Times article reflects, magazine newsstand sales are declining (a 10% decrease as reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations), so it’s likely Facebook, newly open to the public, will appeal to the appetites of marketers who find themselves up against waning sales of hard-copy magazines and newspapers (check the newsstand prices of the Times these days; it seems newspapers are needing to compensate for suffering newsstand sales as well).
Just how far are offline magazines falling? Single-copy sales of consumer magazines fell from 32.1 million to 28.9 million. But as we saw with Facebook, those numbers could be misleading, making the predicaments of hard-copy magazines even worse. As referenced above, it makes more sense to check how numbers are reflected. For instance, there’s a stark difference between ‘circulation’ and ‘subscription’ numbers; a doctor’s office may count as one subscription (that’s a concrete and agreeable figure), however, the ‘circulation’ that magazine accrues within the office is more speculative and left up to the craftsmanship of magazine advertising staff. ‘Circulation’ is not a directly ‘tangible’ figure, just like Facebook’s “active daily user.” One anomaly the Times article features is Game Informer magazine. Paid ‘circulation’ increased (48 percent) to 7.51 million, but the magazine is also included as a ‘promotion’ at GameStop stores, so what do the ‘actual’ numbers look like?.
Though released numbers could be shifty, one fact remains to be true. A lot of searchers are leveraging online engines (Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft) to get secure information across a number of verticals. When it comes to media, retail, travel, auto, finance, and health, an impressive percentage of people leverage search engines. Those numbers are likely to be greater; the numbers don’t reflect social media sites Facebook or Twitter, bastions of real time information.
Circulation and active user numbers may not be completely objective, but it seems like it’s a safe assumption for online advertisers to start giving online media sources more attention, especially considering the incipient explosion of mobile advertising.