Readership is in the eye of the beholder

Newspapers and magazines are finally updating the ways they measure their audiences, and the results look encouraging as most are gaining many more readers online than their print circulations suggest. Now all they need is an online business model.


The National Readership Survey (NRS), which presents a quarterly report of the audiences of newspapers and consumer magazines read across the UK, last week released its PADD (print and digital data) results for the first time. It will be the first time of many, as the NRS seeks to give an authoritative overview of the combined print and digital audiences of the titles, adding in online readership data from UK Online Measurement and Nielsen.

The NRS provides a useful data point as it gives an idea of how many different readers a title actually has over a given time period – as opposed to the number of copies sold, or the numbers of unique online users and page views, as reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. It also segments readers so advertisers can see the types of people consuming each title.

The fact the print and online readerships have finally been combined in a comparable way across the industry has given rise to some interesting new analyses. For example, the Guardian, with an ABC circulation of just over 200,000 copies per day, can claim on the PADD figures to reach nearly 9 million people per month in the UK, in print and online.

That’s not to say the NRS is the only audience data on newspapers that is of any use – all data sources in this area give an incomplete picture. The NRS is based on sample data, first and foremost, and all such research is only as representative of reality as the sample is of the wider population, and only as accurate as the assumptions made in extrapolating the data.

What this and other new audience measurement tools demonstrate, though, is that media titles that originated in print feel the strength of their brands is being underestimated as their finances falter. For some time they have been looking for measurement methods that give credibility to these hunches.

The Financial Times is using its own method, which combines its own web data with ABC circulation and NRS results. The total, with duplicates removed, is audited by PwC and cited by the FT as its average daily global audience (ADGA).

The use by magazines and newspapers of different audience measurement techniques can be expected to increase, as they seek to show themselves to advertisers in a more attractive light. Whether they will be able to convince brands to pay more to reach these readers is another question entirely.

Do you want to be recognised for peerless data insight? Then it’s time to enter the Data Strategy Data Professional of the Year award.

The deadline for entry is Friday 21st September 2012. Gongs will be handed out on Thursday 7th February 2013 at the Lancaster London.

For details of the nomination process, click here.

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