September 14, 2012

Is newspaper web traffic smaller than we thought?


Has the Internet increased readership of newspapers and magazines? Until now that’s been the case made by media planners, and they seem to have had the figures to back it up. But new stats suggest that, in the UK at least, those have been overestimated.

This week the National Readership Survey released its first set of results using Nielsen/UKOM data. Whereas the previous information, provided by ABC, was based on ‘unique browsing sessions’, i.e. individual visits, these numbers purport to report numbers of actual readers, using tracking software installed on the computers of 75,000 web users. Here‘s MediaBriefing on what this means about the received wisdom about readership figures:

– Take for example that mighty scourge of liberal England, the Daily Mail which according to NRS had an average monthly print readership of 14.12 million between April 2011 and March 2012, but online at it had a monthly reach of 6.85 million. That’s quite a climbdown from its ABC figure of 34.7 million unique browsing sessions in the UK in July. According to NRS, one of the most celebrated UK news websites is dwarfed by its print counterpart in terms of audience.

– Although recent coverage had it that the Mail Online reached more than 100 million “browsers” last month, it almost certainly did not: it may well have clocked up 100 million browsing sessions, but not individual users.

– Or take Telegraph Media Group, an early mover in the digital transition with a good 15 years of online innovation behind it. The NRS says its print readership is almost exactly the same as the number of visitors to per month. It’s a print audience of 5.24 million per month, versus 5.39 million for the website. Which leads on to…

– The assumption has been for while now that newspapers’ websites gives them a lot bigger reach than print alone – the NRS now puts that in perspective. The Daily and Sunday Mirror titles plus the People, for example, clock up 12.11 million print readers a month. When you add in that only adds 1.43 million to the total audience. That could mean a lot of readers also buy the paper.

According to the new figures, the Sun has the largest combined readership of any newspaper, followed by the Daily Mail. The Guardian heads those classed as ‘quality’ papers, just ahead of the Telegraph. As the Columbia Journalism Review helpfully and depressingly points out, the Sun is not only the most widely read British newspaper, but also, according an Open Road/Populus Poll, the least trusted.



Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.