Monetisation on desktop has never been easy, so news that the number of people reading newsbrands on desktop has fallen would appear to be a good omen for publishers.

However, the latest results from the National Readership Survey show that not only has desktop readership fallen, but that print readership has fallen slightly, too. That’s not good news for news publishers, for whom print is still the most stable source of revenue, but worse news is that the proportion of mobile readers – historically even harder to monetise than desktop – has grown.

To illustrate that point, we’ve created the following slider using NRS PADD data and Knightlab’s Juxtapose tool. To see how the proportion of readership by medium has changed in the past year. Grab the slider in the first column from the left and drag it across.

Of particular note are the changes to the Sun and The Scotsman’s readership by proportion, as a result of the Sun’s dropping its paywall and The Scotsman having undergone a redesign of its digital properties in September 2015.

The increase in mobile readership is probably down to a combination of increased number of smartphone users and – crucially – because more publishers have properly optimised their websites for mobile, as we’ve seen with The Scotsman.

The changes are starker when plotted as a total by medium. You’ll see that reported readership of PC has sharply fallen – though as the Net column demonstrates the reported growth in mobile readership more than makes up for the reported print and PC falls:


As a comparison to that .04 percent decrease in reported print readership, the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the same period show that – with a few exceptions – the average circulation decrease was much greater than the NRS figures:


That difference can probably be explained by people’s natural propensity to overreport the amount of news they consume, however, and since the NRS PADD survey relies on self-reported audience data it’s inevitably susceptible to that to a degree.

So, while 95 percent of people are still consuming news or magazine brands content every month, it’s not necessarily through the medium news publishers would necessarily prefer. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to overall growth in audiences, however. Before the hammer falls on publishers who solely rely on scale, there’s still cachet and advertising potential to huge audience reach. 

Research based on media consumption in Canada, too, bears out that increase in readership across platforms is additive rather than just a translation of readers from one medium to another:


Image from Vividata and INMA.

Header image courtesy of Jimmy Xue via Flickr used under a Creative Commons license.