Over the past week these reader promotions ran in newspapers across Australia:

Sunday Herald Sun – Free loaf of Brumby’s bread with the Sunday Herald Sun… just take in the masthead to receive the bread.

Saturday Mercury – A token competition to win a Holden Tigra Hardtop Convertible.

Sunday Mail (South Australia) – Harry Potter Movie Ticket competition.

Sunday Times – A Harry Potter Movie Pack – for $2 with a token.

The Daily Telegraph – Collect tokens to win a $10,000 sports gear voucher for your school.

The Australian – Collect six tokens to win an Audi car.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) – Competition to win a family escape, in collaboration with Channel 7

The Sunday Age – Free movie tickets if you join The Age/Europa Movie Club.

Australian
newspapers are always running these kinds of promotions to support their
circulations – but that doesn’t necessarily add to their readership.
Newspapers are read according to the news of the day. Newspapers sell
and are read by more people when the events of the day are exciting
(the Olympic Games), frightening (September 11, 2001) or of human
interest (royal weddings).

Readership, or the number of readers, changes depending on the “news” – a clear example of this for magazines was the June 2004 Women’s Weekly Royal Wedding Souvenir Issue (Mary and Frederik) which nearly doubled its readership in that month.

There
is no escaping this reality – when nothing much is happening it is hard
to get people to engage either in reading or buying newspapers.

But
experienced newspaper publishers have developed sophisticated
strategies and techniques to drive circulation. These are predominantly
incentives to buy newspapers – promotions, giveaways with the
newspaper, and competitions/coupons. These all require people to buy a
newspaper to get the gift or be able to enter the competition – whether
or not they or anyone else read the newspaper. Indeed, a really
valuable offer can result in a single person buying multiple copies of
a newspaper.

Each week newspapers in Australia run such
promotions. Obviously readership and circulation changes do not always
correlate. Many people buy one or more newspapers for the promotions;
this significantly reduces the number of readers-per-newspaper sold. It
is no wonder circulations of many newspapers are “up” while Roy Morgan
Readership estimates are “down.”