Torin Douglas (MW July 27) reports criticism of the National Readership Survey (NRS), at least partly, based on the fact that when “readership goes down and circulation is going
up” there are “howls of complaint”.
This interpretation of the relationship between the two measurements is based on the assumption that readers per copy is an unchanging number across the whole of an issue’s circulation and not merely the average – which of course it is.
Circulation changes are the net effect of gains and losses. If the gains are of copies which have a low readership per copy (logical, given that new buyers are likely to come from existing readers who previously
shared) and if lost copy sales are those with a high readership per copy (again logical if they are multi-shared office copies that are cut from corporate budgets) then the net effect can be one of rising circulation and declining readership.
For publications that promote via give-aways designed to bring in the uncommitted buyer who then fails to become a committed reader sharing their copy according to the established “average” practice, this breakdown in the previous Audit Bureau of Circulations/NRS relationship is inevitable.
It isn’t necessarily the NRS that is “broken” – maybe just the interpretation of the results.