As reader behaviour evolves, so must the tools we use to measure it


Change is hard. It is an uphill battle filled with seemingly unending hurdles to leap over. Once you decide the rewards will be worth it, however, then it is just a process.

Newspapers are changing. We talk about it all the time. We write about it all the time. Is anybody listening? Is it important?

Newspapers continue to be defined by their print product. They are “legacy media.”

But newspapers are no longer printed products distributed once a day to eagerly waiting readers. They are a part of the cornucopia of media choices available anytime, anywhere. They collect and distribute content across a variety of platforms and are available 24 hours a day.

So why do advertisers think of them as printed products, a quaint relic from a time that no longer exists? Recent forecasts by ad agencies of revenues by medium speak volumes: Digital revenues will grow, newspapers will decline. Which bucket includes newspapers’ digital revenue?

The brand footprint — that’s what newspapers are publishing and want to sell. Different information throughout the day across a number of channels. Credible, valuable, and timely.

In Canada:

  • Eight in 10 adults read a daily newspaper every week, more than half every day.

  • 61% of those weekly readers read only a printed newspaper, 8% only online and 31% read both.

  • 80% of online readers read a printed newspaper every week.

  • On the average weekday, 73% read only a printed edition, 13% only online, and only 14% read both print and digital editions.

Print continues to be the valued core of the newspaper business. Over the week, many readers migrate between print and Web site content, not as many on the average weekday.

It’s about the content, it’s about the brand. Traditionally, media sources have been defined by their distribution method — one-dimensional — and most advertisers continue to buy ads in these silos. It is print vs. Internet vs. broadcast vs. mobile. In today’s media landscape, that can be very complicated. And the pace of technological change will only exacerbate the problem.

It is not about a newspaper’s Web site compared to what is available on the Internet, or print versus all other print vehicles. It is about readers: How many are there? How often do they read? What sources do they access? And, how do those readers value and engage with newspapers throughout the day and over time?

Add to that the old axiom, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t sell it.” What is the solution?

Newspapers need new tools that measure consumers’ media behaviour. Research solutions must be designed or evolve to capture the reader’s experience with newspaper content. Today’s silo research tools do little to address what we know is happening: touchpoints with newspapers, and all media content, throughout the day.

At NADbank, the original survey has been enhanced to include questions on all content distributed by newspapers, print and digital, and with the 2012 Study release, NADbank will provide even more detail: PDF/replica copies, apps, and at the Web site. We are working toward a platform that will enable the study to measure digital audiences passively to glean more detail about newspaper audiences.

Most importantly, NADbank launched a new software tool that enables buyers and sellers to understand how print and digital content is read/accessed by readers. Because we collect single source data, the actual reach and duplication of newspaper audiences is available.

Traditional reach/frequency tools do not incorporate readership at the Web site into their models, except mathematically. The NADbank single-source, cross-platform tool is unique. But is it being used? It requires a change in the approach to planning newspaper campaigns.

Does planning with this tool take away from how online audiences are considered and advertising rates are negotiated?

In Canada, comScore is the currency for online audiences, and NADbank is often considered only for the measurement of print audiences. comScore’s audiences are not linked to NADbank’s print or online audiences, and when the single-source data is not used to plan newspaper campaigns, some readers are “lost.” On the average weekday, 30% of The Globe and Mail’s audience accesses its content “only online,” over the week, 22%.

Audience duplication across platforms varies by newspaper, as every newspaper is read/viewed differently. But as readers migrate more and more to digital offerings, the industry is going to need better tools to find audiences and reflect their behaviour accurately in the planning and buying process.

The newspapers have the most “skin in the game.” They will have to develop and promote new tools that will demonstrate the value of their audiences to their advertisers. Newspapers must be the agents of change. Buyers will carry on judging performance by distribution channel using mathematical models to predict cross-platform reach, unless newspapers change the way they think of, and sell their content.

The Integrated Newspaper Planning Tool (INPT) is a step forward for the newspaper industry to present its case for evaluating content as a whole. It is a new tool in the kit. As the media landscape continues to evolve, newspapers will need new tools to understand consumer behaviour.

Newspapers that don’t use new tools and develop new approaches to selling their content to advertisers will only lose. By looking at things differently we will see things differently, and it will be easier to develop the tools needed to showcase and promote newspapers in the years to come.

If newspapers want to sell their brand footprint and change the way they are thought of and used by advertisers, they will need the tools and the belief in their strategy.

Print continues to be the foundation of the newspaper industry. Readership of digital editions, however, will continue to grow every year. Newspaper organisations must think of offline and online products in tandem, and they will have to educate their advertisers to do the same.

Change is about embracing the unknown, and there is a saying I love to repeat: “Pioneers get the arrows, settlers get the land.” Time to don our flak jackets; there is a job to be done.

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