Newspapers and magazines are often lumped into the same box when talking about our industry. Yes, they have their similarities but increasingly, their differences are becoming more apparent.
This appears to be the reason behind the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) decision to radically alter the way they measure their cross-channel audience by breaking ties with the National Readership Survey (NRS).
As Richard Marks writes in Newsline, “Just as the world was recovering from the announcement earlier this year that Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow were ‘consciously uncoupling’, the news broke last week that the Newspaper Publishers Association is about to serve a ‘statutory 18 month notice’ on the National Readership Survey.
“This potentially breaks their research marriage with the magazine industry as they look to build a new life with a more ‘contemporary audience system’ which may or may not be the NRS,” Marks continues.
Marks notes that, at the heart of the issue, newspapers are moving toward a more digital-heavy revenue model while magazines are not. This change in business model means that the measurement tools used by newspapers will need to change too, and the NRS has not been quick enough to embrace a multi-channel readership approach.
“It could be argued that the ‘print plus’ approach of the current NRS makes far more sense for the magazines than it does for newsbrands, who appear keener to rip it up and start again,” Marks continues.
Magazines, on the other hand, continue to grow in print. Marks compares it television, and the predictions (fears?) that digital devices would quickly replace the traditional TV set.
“…in TV the overwhelming majority of viewing and TV revenue is still about viewing on domestic TV sets,” Marks writes. “The idea that we are going to abandon those TV sets in order to sublime to watching on mobile devices has been largely discredited.”
He notes that online is very much an addition to rather than replacement for viewing on TV sets, just as we see online magazine content as an addition to the printed piece.
The industry is reeling from the “breakup,” but realistically news organizations have to be able to measure the way their readers consume the news across all channels—print, laptops, tablets and mobile. It will be interesting to see how the NRS responds; if they are quick to engage the issue, perhaps this strange but lengthy partnership can be saved after all.