Survey is only half the story

I write with reference to the article “A reading of Sunday paper buyers” (MW August 18).

The Mail on Sunday is justly proud of its female readership profile and coverage, but I was astonished to read that 74.7 per cent of Mail on Sunday readers are women, according to NDL’s National Consumer Study.

One of the central truths in survey research is that you have to get the sample right. A research survey claiming to profile newspaper readers and their habits requires a properly constructed sample of a representative group of individuals.

In NDL’s study the respondents have selected themselves, so huge biases can easily occur. These responses are not weighted in any way to counteract known or potential bias. A sample, however vast, that is unrepresentative will yield biased results.

So I am not surprised that 74.7 per cent of Mail on Sunday readers who bothered to reply to the survey were women – which is how the statistic should be interpreted. As such, the data could provide a useful list for us to bear in mind the next time we want to mail Mail on Sunday women readers.

But let us not confuse this survey with research.

For the record, 50.3 per cent of The Mail on Sunday readers are women, according to the National Readership Survey – the gold standard for the industry.

Linda Chidoub

Group marketing research manager

Associated Newspapers

London W8

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