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What is reach in relation to media?

Measuring the reach of a piece of media is essentially measuring how many people will see it. Over time, estimations of reach have had to take into account various aspects of consumer behaviour and to be adapted according to which kind of media is being considered.

When the reach of print media is being considered, a certain amount of guesswork has always been required: while publishers may receive precise numbers of how many copies of each issue is sold, they couldn’t know for sure how many people might share that individual issue within a family or household, by passing it along to a friend, or by donating it to a doctor’s waiting room where tens or hundreds of pairs of eyes might see it.

Ok, so is it at all an accurate measure?

It’s generally agreed that digital media can be measured more accurately than its print, radio and TV predecessors: digital audiences can at least be measured in terms of how many times a piece of content has been viewed and engagement. On the other hand, there are still concerns about accuracy that are worth considering and addressing: in the case of an advert, for example, some questions that might arise are how many times a user might see the same advert if it’s showed to them on different media platforms, whether they’re being measured multiple times if they’re viewing the advert from multiple devices, and similar technicalities.

For this reason, the distinction between reach and frequency becomes significant and useful: while reach refers to the number of people who see a piece of media, frequency refers to how often it’s seen. In the past, frequency of exposure to an advert was considered very valuable, with the idea that the message of a piece of advertising may not sink in until after multiple viewings, but newer research suggests that that’s not the case – and ad placement strategies have been adjusted accordingly. Today, digital campaigns prioritize reach over frequency, aiming to be exposed to as many potential customers as possible and trusting that they’ll react to an advert that’s appealing to them.

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