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Time spent with the NME falls 72% after magazine switches online-only

A study published in Journalism Practice by City researcher Dr Neil Thurman, and co-author, Dr Richard Fletcher, concludes that the attention periodicals attract via print is unlikely to transfer to their online editions when they go online-only.
by City Press Office (General enquiries)

In the month Marie Claire UK publishes its last print edition, a new study asks "how does going online-only effect a publication's audience?" 

The authors, Dr Neil Thurman (Senior Honorary Research Fellow at City, University of London) and Dr Richard Fletcher (Senior Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford), had previously shown that the UK’s Independent newspaper suffered a 81% fall in the time audiences were spending with the brand when it went online-only in 2016.

Would the same hold true more widely? To find out, they analysed official audience data on the New Musical Express (NME), a weekly, British music magazine that went online-only in March 2018 after 66 years in print.

The NME's audience is younger than The Independent's, perhaps more likely to switch to its online edition when the print version was withdrawn? 

Sudden and substantial

In fact Thurman and Fletcher found that, just like at The Independent, there was a sudden and substantial fall in the total time spent with the brand: the attention readers were giving to the NME in print did not transfer online once the print edition became unavailable.

Dr Thurman says: “Given that the NME and The Independent differed in many ways - the periodicity and cover prices of their print publications, their reader demographics, and their content, it is remarkable that changes in time spent with the two brands post-print were so similar.”

The authors conclude that the attention periodicals attract via print is unlikely to transfer to their online editions when they go online-only. “While a post-print existence may be less costly”, Dr Thurman added, “it's also more constrained, with much of the attention that was formerly enjoyed simply stripped away.”

What about the NME's reach? The study reports that official net weekly and monthly readership did grow post-print—by 19% and 27% respectively. However, the NME's average online reader only spends around three minutes a month with the brand. In comparison the NME’s print readers spent an average of 31 minutes a week reading the paper edition of the magazine.

So, what happens to the time readers were spending with a publication in print after that publication goes online-only? This study clearly shows that they are not spending that time with the online version, but it is unclear whether they are turning to other print publications, or other online sources, or completely forgoing the type of information they once consumed in print. 

The authors conclude by saying that “if the post-print behaviour witnessed at the NME and The Independent applies to print news generally and the withdrawal of printed publications ultimately leads to a large reduction in the amount of news consumed, then the consequences for society could be profound.”


Read the full article in Journalism Practice.

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