British publishers who maintain a combined print and digital presence have just breathed a great collective sigh of relief. As reported by Omar Oakes of Campaign, the venerable National Readership Survey (NRS) is giving up its status as the go-to reference for print media audience metrics after almost six decades of service. The organization slated to succeed it is the new Publishers Audience Membership company, or Pamco, with the NRS’s own CEO, Simon Redican, at the helm. This change has some major implications for cross-media publications in the UK — and the rest of the world is watching.
Addressing Modern Readership Habits
It’s big news when an entire nation decides to change the way it measures publication readership. The NRS has been conducting quarterly in-person polls since 1956, regularly quizzing some 36,000 people on their media buying and reading habits. This cross-section of the public taste proved invaluable to 260 British newspaper and magazine publishers striving to make the maximum impact on readers nationwide.
But times change, with technology usually leading the way. Over the past several years readers have become viewers, enjoying their favorite publications in a variety of formats other than (or in addition to) print media. Digital versions of leading newspapers and magazines are viewed, not only on desktop PCS, but also on laptops, netbooks, e-readers, smartphones, and tablets. The NRS suddenly found itself scrambling to measure these readership habits on top of the print media they’d traditionally followed. Information on online audience, and later mobile audiences, were added, but in a piecemeal and ultimately unsatisfactory fashion.
Pamco’s new approach intends to correct that balance in the most forward-thinking manner possible. The fledgling company promises to offer a fully multi-platform measurement service once it officially takes over for the NRS in 2016. While it hasn’t divulged any details about exactly what metrics it intends to collect and analyze, Pamco hopes to give publishers a single, homogenous source of deep audience data for its digital, print, and mobile audiences.
What does this mean for the publishing world? First and foremost, it means the publishers included in Pamco’s measurement system will have a more detailed and accurate picture of how today’s readers use their product. This will improve the publishers’ ability to target specific demographics, possibly employing multiple marketing strategies based on their effectiveness on various reader platforms. It will also help them figure out the smartest budget and circulation numbers for their print version in relation to their digital version. As the PPA points out, the shift to true multi-platform measurement will help publishers achieve deeper reader engagement while optimizing their scale as a total publishing entity.
Other publishers around the world would do well to follow Pamco’s progress and learn more about the company’s methods once they become apparent. In a truly multi-channel publishing environment, you must make use of every scrap of data you can measure from all of your readers. You must know where they’re reaching you from, which platforms they seem to prefer, and how their reading and buying behaviors differ from one platform to the next. That’s the future of publishing — and it starts right now.