Nailing Los Numeros
A game of three-card Monte or simply a finally updated accounting of newspaper readership for the modern age? Maybe a bit of both.
Poynter’s Rick Edmonds nails the nuances behind the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s new circulation counting system, which breaks out by paid and free and by types of distribution, including e-edition, mobile and more.
“Paid” is now down to a penny stock; literally, you pay a penny — that’s paid. The irony in this: newspapers and many consumer magazines have long sold their value to advertisers based on the fact, in part, that their readers really, really like them, pointing to the evidence of paid readership, and distinguishing themselves mightily from all the various throwaways and “controlled circulation” giveaways. That’s now getting harder to do, though you will echoes of that argument every once in awhile.
In newspapers’ favor: the breakouts begin to give marketers a better accounting of the diverse, and separate, kinds of reaches that news products now offer. Marketers are tending to buy more targeted audiences, anyhow, and this kind of data helps. For those still looking at the big reach number — the total of unduplicated readers (print and digital) that a given news brand offers — that’s in there, too. So all bases covered.
Edmonds’ final point for the handful of us in the analytic trade — and those who follow the industry — it will soon be quite difficult to compare the new numbers to the old ones (after a couple more old reporting periods come and go). That’s true. The optics may seem better down the road, but those optics and narrative — the newspaper industry is a shadow of its former self — are now set. The potential good news for the industry: The new numbers, parsed as we’ll parse them, will tell us as much about its growth as its demise.