Those who sell space in magazines and newspapers well know how to maximize the value of advertising in their products. It is their job to sell advertisers on the wisdom of buying space in their product, which we hope will include lots of your photographs. Unfortunately, photographers have traditionally failed to educate themselves on the nuances of this aspect of the business and as a result continue to undervalue both their advertising and photo-journalistic images.

Here are some quick tips and things to consider the next time a client wants to use one of your images.  Again this applies to any and all photos, which can wind up in any portion of any newspaper or magazine.

On most magazine rate cards, the organization will show the publication’s geographic coverage area, demographics and circulation. Some publications also list their readership. Circulation is the number of newspapers or magazines that are printed and distributed each day. Readership on the other hand, reflects the actual number of people who read (or at least skim) these publications and the numbers are often wildly different.

While circulation of most magazines is accurately reported by an organization known as the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), readership is an elusive number not easily found. For example as of June 2013,  AAM reported that the “total, paid, verified” circulation for single copy sales of Time Magazine was 3,301,056, Sports Illustrated, 3,065,507,  Vogue 269,740 and US Weekly 477,208.

An issue of Time delivered to a private home is likely to be seen or read only by the people residing in that home and likely tossed in the trash when the new issue arrives. An identical issue delivered to a doctor’s office may be seen by a dozen people every day, five days a week for months. (If you’re reading magazines that are years old in your doctor’s office, ya just might want to shop around for a new doctor.) This is one reason why businesses with waiting rooms like doctors, dentists, auto repair facilities, salons and the like get their magazines at little or no cost. By its nature a news magazine like Time gets dated quickly – pun intended – and is rarely retained or kept around for long.

Not so Vogue, US Weekly, Star, People, Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest and of course AARP The Magazine, circulation 21,931,184 (not a mis-print). These magazines may linger in the home or office for months and their contents viewed by many people of very different backgrounds. Reportedly Star Magazine has 7.1 readers for each copy “circulated”, each OK Magazine is seen by 3.9 readers in the UK.  Still other magazines like National Geographic (4,404,000) or Playboy (figures unavailable – we couldn’t help that one) are often collected by the recipient with the intention that they will be kept “forever”. Any purported readership numbers cannot be proven with any accuracy.

The pass along rate for newspapers is generally assumed to be 2.5 readers. So if a newspaper has a circulation of 50,000 the total readership would be 50,000 X 2.5 or 125,000,  This represents an industry assumption used by those papers to confuse unsophisticated prospective advertisers who don’t do their homework and check out the publication for themselves.

This matters to you because the actual number of people who potentially will view your photo helps determine the appropriate licensing fee you will charge to your advertising client or to the publication itself whether an assignment, editorial use or stock license.  Do not be misled into thinking that there is no money to be made in the anachronistic field of print media.  With all the bad press – yes, yet another pun – well over 100 million non-electronic magazines and newspapers containing lots of advertisements and editorial shots are still sold every month in the USA alone. This is simply too big a market to ignore.