Study finds print is platform of choice, but cross-platform usage continues to grow

By Sara Hill and Rahul Sethi


Toronto, Ontario, Canada


In the fall of 2014, Canada’s newspaper and magazine measurement bodies, NADbank and PMB, merged to form Vividata. Vividata replaced separate magazine and newspaper surveys with a single source study providing a significantly larger sample, more frequent and timely data releases, and measurement of all newspapers and magazines’ print and digital products. 

To date, Vividata has released nine months of 2015 fieldwork and the results reflect the influence of technology we live with today.

Results: Audiences are changing

Marshall McLuhan, the great Canadian communications theorist, once said, “We shape our tools, and, thereafter, our tools shape us.” Among many other things, this statement is evident in how newspaper and magazine readership is changing.

People are still reading, but the way they read is changing. In the new technology landscape, readership of both newspaper and magazine brands has remained strong, with overall brand reach remaining relatively constant in the past five years (see Figure 1).

Though people receive news differently today, brand reach has remained relatively consistent.
Though people receive news differently today, brand reach has remained relatively consistent.

Audience readership on digital devices, such as laptops/desktops and mobile, has offset declines in print platform readership. Over five years, print readership for both newspapers and magazines has decreased; however, digital readership is on the rise, keeping overall brand reach near or above levels from five years ago. Newspaper brands have actually increased average weekly reach by 5% since 2011. 

Newspaper readers are more active on newspapers’ digital products during the weekdays (Monday–Friday). Thirty-four percent are digital-only readers during the weekdays; however, printed newspaper products remain the platform of choice on the weekends (see Figure 2).

Use of time on the weekend during versus the week is reflected in choice of platform.
Use of time on the weekend during versus the week is reflected in choice of platform.

The preference for print on the weekend could relate to more free time and expanded, content-rich weekend editions; whereas newspapers’ digital products align to work and commuter schedules during the week.

Print still dominates while cross-platform usage is high

Seventy percent of newspaper readers still read a printed edition daily. That’s down from 90% five years ago. While print remains the leading source for most newspaper readers in Canada today, digital and cross-platform continues to grow.

For both newspapers and magazines, over half of the audiences read digital products. With regard to newspapers, 28% of readers (18+) only read newspaper content on digital devices (see Figure 3), up from 16% in 2012. Cross-platform readership (meaning they read both print and digital products) for newspaper brands has doubled from 14% in 2012 to 30% in 2015.

Cross-platform readership has increased dramatically.
Cross-platform readership has increased dramatically.

And as one would suspect, digital readership is higher among younger demographics. For newspapers, 45% of digital-only readers are under the age of 39 versus 21% for those aged 60+.

Digital readers also earn a household income 7% higher than the national average, and they are more likely to access newspaper content on more than one device.

Growth in mobile and multi-device readership

Mobile and multi-device readership has been on the rise since the launch of the iPad in 2010. As feature-rich smartphones and mobile applications continue to evolve, we expect to see a continued rise in multi-device readership.

In 2012, only four out of 10 digital newspaper readers used a mobile device, by 2015 it was seven out 10. Today, a majority of digital readers (two out of three) use a tablet or a smartphone, and one in four are exclusively mobile (see Figure 4).

Reading on a tablet also increases by 13% on the weekend, while laptop/desktop reading drops slightly. It could be that newspaper readers are supplementing their print readership with a tablet.

A majority of digital readers use more than one device: 43% of digital readers use a tablet or smartphone along with a laptop or desktop to access newspaper content.

Most readers use more than one device.
Most readers use more than one device.

In our next post: Upcoming results and overcoming challenges

Next month, Vividata will release the first results of a full year of 2015 fieldwork. In our next post, we will share cross-platform readership results, and metrics on consumers’ relationships with publishing brands.

We will also delve into the challenges we faced in the first year of a new study. Two of our main challenges have been:

  1. Industry acceptance of a new methodology after more than two decades of established, separate newspaper and magazine measurement.

  2. Future proofing our study in a time of unprecedented change. 

To learn more, please visit our Web site.

About Sara Hill and Rahul Sethi

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.