Dr Neil Thurman has published findings from his new study in Journalism Studies.

Published (Updated )

New research shows that 89 per cent of the time audiences spend with national newspapers is still in print, with just 7 per cent via mobile devices and 4 per cent via PCs.

The study, by Dr Neil Thurman (of City, University of London and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich), uses industry data from the UK National Readership Survey (NRS) for print statistics and from comScore for online figures.

Published in the international peer-reviewed journal Journalism Studies, it is the first research to comprehensively account for the time spent reading newspapers via mobile devices.

Although online editions have doubled or tripled the number of readers that national newspapers reach, Dr Thurman argues this increased exposure disguises huge differences in attention paid by print and online readers.

He said: “My research shows that while print newspapers are read for an average of 40 minutes per day, online visitors to the websites and apps of those same newspapers spend an average of just 30 seconds per day. Scale those numbers up and you can see why newspapers still rely on print for the vast majority of the attention they receive.”

The study covers 11 UK national newspaper brands, using a full year’s worth of data (from April 2015 to March 2016). The data almost exactly mirror the split in newspapers’ print / digital revenues (88 per cent / 12 per cent) as reported in the recent NMA/Deloitte report.

“It looks like revenues match audience attention closely,” said Dr Thurman. “This would make sense – after all, as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘time is money’.”

The academic says time-based metrics are gaining credibility as the best way to measure newspapers’ multiplatform audiences. For example, the Financial Times believes that time-based metrics value “real reader engagement”, and the online publishing platform Medium uses “total time reading” as its “top-line metric”.

As well as shedding new light on newspapers’ multiplatform performance, the research is the first to follow Ofcom’s recommendation that market share be “calculated from time spent”.

Dr Thurman added: “My calculations show the UK national newspaper market is more concentrated than is commonly believed, with one title – the Daily Mail – having close to a 30 per cent market share.”