Why is coverage in the Guardian perceived to better than a piece in Retail Week? Simple; number of readers. Whether right or wrong, circulation figures have always been a way to demonstrate the ‘importance’ of a media outlet.
And with the internet, out goes circulation and in come ‘unique views’ and ‘visits’. The idea is that online measurement is easier, better and more reliable.
So, I was interested to read a blog post today (via the Online Journalism Blog) by Dan Thornton.
The post explains why it is dangerous to compare print figures to web stats and the various foibles of each. He cites the fact that offline circulation figures are often multiplied to take into account people passing on newspapers to each other. And he highlights how online figures miss out a much more diverse range of potential distribution methods too:
“And there’s a big elephant in the news room: Whoever said that print newspaper readers were guaranteed to only be getting their online news from newspapers? I can get digital news on my mobile or my PC, via text,audio or video, and via social networks, blogs, websites, link aggregators, RSS, podcasts, videocasts, and from global sources. Whether or not print titles are only seeing a small percentage of their print readership visiting them online is less relevant, than how many of those readers are getting news content online from any source.”
Dan concludes that data trends are the way to go in working out figures to attach to ‘online media’.
And from a PR standpoint, circulation or visits matter little if the audience is not targeted. I could be on the frontpage of Guardian Online everyday, but if my customers or prospects don’t look there then its meaningless. It’s time we move away from circulation and look more at reach, conversion and conversation. For media organisations, these measures still matter though as advertising budgets are stretched even further.