Are newspapers giving you a headache? Keep taking the tablets
The National Readership Survey (NRS), which reports on the official readership estimates for the nation’s print titles, has published its latest set of results today. Dare I say the obvious, but the diminishing readership of printed newspapers is a real headache for the publishing industry. It’s also a headache for me and others who are increasingly fed up constantly reading about their demise. It feels like a week can’t pass without some negative announcement or comment: Johnston Press scaling down some of their titles from a daily to a weekly operation; Leveson; Trinity Mirror’s shareholder displeasure; Leveson; Rupert Murdoch’s prediction of newspapers lasting just twenty more years; Leveson; and so on. And in related news, The Newspaper Marketing Agency, the trade body for the medium, has rebranded in a shrewd move to Newsworks.
But let’s get back to the NRS results. Unsurprisingly, there is not a lot of good news for publishers in there, although there are some notable exceptions. On the back of winning the Newspaper App of the Year award, Metro records an 11% year-on-year increase, picking up an average daily print readership of 3.8m adults. The magazine picture is mixed as usual although, bizarrely, there are increases in readers for both pregnancy and wedding magazines – now that has to be a coincidence, surely?
The NRS also collects data on digital readership, albeit at a generic level until ‘PADD’ is launched later this year, and here is where a bit more sunshine breaks through the clouds.
Nearly 6 million adults have viewed a newspaper or magazine using a tablet, e-reader or app in the past 12 months – that’s an increase of 52% on the same period last year. Furthermore, just over 2 million adults view a newspaper app in an average week – a growth of 28% on last year. We are now starting to see early signs of exponential growth in digital reading of titles, although there is also a Christmas effect here with the figures benefitting from devices starting to make their presence on Santa’s gift lists.
The jury is still out as to whether the subscription or free model, ‘quality or quantity’, will provide the optimum returns for publishers. Mail Online and The Times/Sunday Times have opposing views. The former will argue that its global audience of 90 million unique users (and 214,000 iphone app daily browsers) beats the latter’s 131,000 hyper-engaged consumers across its whole digital portfolio. But advertisers are looking at both sides of the coin for now.
As for my headache? I think I will just take a tablet and lie down for a bit.