Build strong single-copy sales

November 4, 2013

By Bob Bobber
Circulation Counts 

In writing my columns during the past 10 years, I have gotten the most response concerning the subject of single-copy sales. I have always felt that single copy was the most interesting of the many aspects of circulation management.

You can play the headlines and stories. Monitoring returns and trying to reduce the returns percentage and still sell the same amount of newspapers was almost a game. There have been numerous attempts during the years to write software to control single-copy draws, but there has only been moderate success. I know. I invested about $3,000 in a guy who thought he could write a program way back in 1980. I never saw that money again.

I think that as the new newspaper business model evolves, there is going to be more and more emphasis on single-copy sales. The reason is simple economics. A carrier can deliver more single copy issues in a shorter period of time at either full rate for coin racks or 70 percent to 75 percent of full rate if it is a dealer.

There is no half-price subscription or premium based sales. The split between home delivery carriers and the newspaper has always been pretty much the same as the split between single-copy carriers and the newspaper.

The cost of gasoline is much less because there are fewer stops and generally less mileage. Brakes don’t get burned up as quickly, there are a lot fewer driveways to turn around in and there is no cost of delivery bags. All in all, there is generally more money in single copy than home delivery per copy. In addition, our readers are becoming more selective in their reading habits and are getting less likely to subscribe and get tied into a long-term contract. Having said all that, here is another way to utilize single copy. I saw something recently that reminded me of a concept I have been pushing for years—using coin racks as an advertising vehicle. This can be done really in three different manners.

1. The Billboard—Coin racks are generally located in high traffic areas and can make for attractive advertising opportunities for your advertisers. Vicksburg, MS, was doing this years ago. It actually sold ads that were painted or decaled on to the sides of the coin racks. In this particular case, they sold the ads in an expansion area and it helped defray the normal costs and losses of going into a new area. For more information, you may want to contact Becky Chandler.

2. The Retail Ad—This technique uses your rack cardholder as a temporary advertising opportunity that supplements existing retail advertising in your newspaper. One of my favorites was to have a rack card that directed the potential reader to an insert in that day’s newspaper. For instance, “Check out today’s Publix insert with BOGO ad’s.” The newspaper can either charge for this or it can be used as a value-added feature to help advertisers or perhaps entice advertisers.

3. The Classified Ad—The Orlando Sentinel is using its coin racks to advertise for its telemarketing and customer service operations. It is a colorful, attractive decal ad that takes up both sides of the coin rack. This technique could also be used to recruit carriers, mailroom personnel, and other hard-to-fill positions.

I am big supporter of trying to maximize the use of coin racks. In the coming years I do think that the use of coin racks and their expense and maintenance is going to come into question. I believe by using these different techniques to maximize the use of these important pawns in the chess match which is circulation growth, you will help extend their life. © Robert Bobber 2013 

Bob Bobber is a newspaper consultant specializing in circulation sales, training and public speaking. You contact him at

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