Print and Internet advertising aren't perfect substitutes for each other. The way that ads are priced, it takes at least 10 Internet users to make up for a single print user. So it doesn't make too much sense to suggest that a print user is equal to an Internet user, right? Unless, of course, it helps to cover up a decline in the print business.
That's exactly what the Newspaper Association of America is up to with its newly released Fall 2006 Newspaper Audience Database, a free report that combines Scarborough print numbers with Nielsen/Netratings Internet numbers. (The Yellow Pages Association has made a similar case for its members.)
A prologue to the data suggests that "newspaper Websites increase the reach of the print product by an average of 12 percent across the Top 100 newspapers," and that "with the Web sites, newspapers reach 16 percent more 18-24 year olds, and 19 percent more 25-34 year olds."
Looking at the report, it is kind of stunning to see the heft of the combined Web/print numbers for the Top 100 papers. USA Today, for instance, leads the way with almost 7 million readers; The New York Times has 4.75 million readers; and the L.A. Times has almost 2.2 million readers. Oh, for the days of growth again!
The big numbers don't really matter much. But there is, in fact, some relevance to putting the numbers together because it weights newspapers' relative importance; something that isn’t always considered. We no longer have to assume that two papers with equal print circulation are the same as each other, when one has a weak Web site and one has a strong one. This will become increasingly critical over the next year or so. And then … less so.