UK Print Media “not dead” shocker: Peter Kirwan


The latest issue of Peter Kirwan’s FullRun newsletter is bursting at the seams with good material.

However, his piece on the audience breakdown of leading UK national newspaper websites really does have some big implications  for PR (sub required – so get one).

The thrust of the argument is that the unique readerships of most of the top UK national newspaper websites are actually less than their print equivalents.  In other words, print isn’t dead by a long shot – and everyone questioning whether print media is still worth targetting ought to think again.

I hope Peter doesn’t mind me quoting the following at length – this is something that deserves to be discussed far and wide.

"Neil Thurman of City University has tapped up NielsenNetRatings for data on how many US readers visit the major UK nationals’ sites each month as a proportion of total unique users. Here’s
what he found:
* Independent.co.uk: 73%
* TheSun.co.uk: 42%
* TimesOnline.co.uk: 41%
* FT.com: 39%
* Guardian.co.uk: 39%
* ThisIsLondon.co.uk: 33%
* Telegraph.co.uk: 28%
* DailyMail.co.uk: 11%

It seems fairly clear that most of the UK nationals receive between 30% and 40% of their unique visits from the US.

That’s higher than the numbers revealed by the Times and the Sunday Times
nearly a decade ago. Factor in traffic from the Rest Of The World, and the
proportion of non-UK traffic arriving at UK news sites on a regular basis
could be as high as 60%-70% of unique visitors.

In the case of tech-focused sites, which carry a large amount of what
might be described as globalized news, the proportion could be even
higher.

For PRs based in the UK, the implications are interesting. To tease them
out, it’s worth taking a look at a recent column written for Press Gazette
by John Duncan, a former managing editor of the Observer.
Duncan argues that "every single British national newspaper website still
has a lower audience in the UK than the newspaper it is supposedly
killing".

The claim will sound discordant to anyone who has bought into web
triumphalism. But in the case of the Guardian — the UK’s best-trafficked
newspaper site — Duncan is able to demonstrate it convincingly.
Duncan argues that only 34% of the unique users who visit Guardian
Unlimited originate in the UK — a figure that sits well with Neil
Thurman’s data.

On this basis, he suggests, Guardian Unlimited attracts 270,576 UK-based
unique users on a daily basis. By contrast, the Guardian’s print edition
sells 20,000 copies *more* than that on an average day.
If you take print readership — not just circulation — into account, the
disparity grows even larger. According to the National Readership Survey,
the Guardian’s print edition attracts an average daily readership of
986,586. That’s almost four times the size of what we might describe as
Guardian Unlimited’s audience of UK-based unique users.

The dynamics won’t be different for any of the Guardian’s rivals. And it
seems reasonable to suggest that similar principles apply to UK-based B2B
and consumer tech publications.

These days, it’s becoming fashionable for tech PR agencies to quietly
criticize clients who display a continuing preference for print-based
coverage. But if Thurman and Duncan are correct, it’s hard to criticize
anyone who thinks that print still plays a major role in influencing
buyers and significant others.

The bottom line is that PR professionals working in the UK are paid to get
their messages in front of a UK-based target audience. In many cases, print
remains a highly efficient way of doing just that.

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