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A guide to the National Readership Survey. See for further information. The NRS Objective.

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A guide to the

National Readership Survey

See for further information

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The NRS Objective

‘The objective of the National Readership Survey is to provide a common currency of readership research data for newspapers and magazines, using a methodology acceptable to both publishers of print media and the buyers of space, to the highest possible standard in a way that is cost effective and sufficiently flexible to take account of change and the needs of users’

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NRS is owned by the industry it servesFunding and voting structure of NRS Ltd.

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The pros and cons of the Joint Industry structure of NRS

  • Common currency agreed by all parties

  • Pressure to maintain high standards – the ‘gold currency’

  • Cost efficiency

  • Knowledge and expertise of senior figures in publishing, agencies and advertisers

  • Decisions by Committee – progress can be slow

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NRS is the planning and trading currency for print media

  • Advertising:

  • Planning – defining the target audience, assessing media types

  • Buying – monitoring media performance, selecting publications, negotiating rates and insertions

  • Selling – finding a case for your publication, getting on to the schedule, setting rates

  • Marketing:

  • Understanding a publication’s readership

  • Monitoring performance

  • Formulating marketing strategies

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The NRS Contract

  • The contract for the main NRS survey is worth £2.4 million per annum (2003 prices)

  • The contract was re-awarded to Ipsos RSL in 2002 for a minimum of four years, following a competitive pitch

  • In addition, there is a separate contract for the Readership Accumulation Survey, awarded on a one-off basis to NOP

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Operation of Main NRS Survey

NRS Board of Directors and Secretariat

Ipsos NRS Management Team

Interviewer Field Force


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The NRS sample

  • The NRS main survey is based on a representative sample of the population aged 15 years and over in Great Britain

  • That population is around 46 million

  • The size of the NRS sample is over 35,000 per annum

  • Those 35,000+ individuals are representatives of the total population

  • The Survey is designed to generate a high quality sample i.e. as representative as possible of the population

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Sampling points selected throughout Great Britain proportionate to regional population – with a boost in Scotland

Household addresses selected at random from Postal Address File

Selected addresses visited by interviewers

Individuals selected for interview by pre-determined random procedure

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Response rates

  • Of all the individuals selected, 52% complete the interview

  • Reasons for non-response:

    - refusals

    - non-availability

  • Response rate for all Surveys in long term decline – social factors e.g. security, time pressures

  • Most acute in London

  • Interviewer makes minimum of 5 calls – no maximum

  • Interviewing takes place seven days a week, 363 days a year

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  • Once the data is collected, it is weighted up to population levels by sex, age, region and social grade

  • The NRS profile matches the profile of the population

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The NRS Interview

  • Since 1992, interviews have been conducted by CAPI





  • Interviewer views questions and inputs replies on laptop

  • Computer determines question routeing

  • The respondent does not see the interviewer’s screen

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DS-CAPIDouble Screen CAPI

  • CAPI has now been superseded by DS-CAPI

  • Respondent sees a separate ‘slave’ screen

  • ‘Paperless’ interview - all prompt material transferred to screen

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The readership questions

  • Respondents are shown a series of 47 screens each of which carries the titles of six publications

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The readership ‘filter’ question(‘Read past year’)

  • Respondents are shown a series of 47 screens each of which carries the titles of six publications

  • They are asked whether they have read or looked at in the past 12 months any of the six titles on each of the screens

  • Two options: Yes or No (If Not Sure, treated as Yes)

  • Respondents are then re-shown all the ‘Yes’ screens in turn and asked which of the six titles they have read or looked at in the past 12 months – this time using ‘mastheads’

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The recency and frequency questions

  • For each of the titles read in the past year, respondents are asked the ‘recency’ and ‘frequency’ questions

  • Recency – when did you last read..?

  • Frequency – how often do you read...?

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Reading recency

  • ‘When did you last read or look at…?’

  • The answers are coded as are:

    - Yesterday

    - Past 7 days

    - Past 2 weeks

    - Past 4 weeks

    - Past 2 months

    - Past 3 months

    - Longer ago

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Reading frequency

  • For each title they have read in the past 12 months, respondents are asked how often do they read it?

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Saturday issues of daily newspapers

  • Those making a ‘read past in the past 12 months’ claim for a daily newspaper are asked a recency and frequency question for the Saturday issue of that newspaper

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Newspaper supplements

  • Those making a ‘read past year claim’ for the Saturday issue of a daily newspaper or a Sunday newspaper are shown the ‘supplements screen’ for that newspaper

  • They are asked the ‘recency’ question for those supplements measured by NRS: magazines/reviews, listings, business and company news, personal finance

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Average Issue Readership (AIR)

  • Average issue readership is the estimated number of readers for a single issue of a publication

  • Average issue readership is derived from the recency question – the number of people who have read the publication within the publication interval i.e.:

    Daily newspapers – read yesterday

    Sunday newspapers – read in last 7 days

    Weekly newspaper supplements – read in last 7 days

    Weekly magazines – read in last 7 days

    Fortnightly magazines – read in last 2 weeks

    Monthly magazines – read in last 4 weeks

    Bi-monthly magazines – read in last 2 months

    Quarterly magazines – read in last 3 months

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Average Issue Readership of daily newspapersAll adults

Source: NRS January-December 2003

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Average Issue Readership of Sunday newspapersAll adults

Source: NRS January-December 2003

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Reading frequency

  • Readers can be classified as:

  • Almost always

  • Quite often

  • Only occasionally

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Source of CopyHow the most recent copy read was obtained and who it was for

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Primary and Secondary Readership How the most recent copy read was obtained and who it was for

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How disappointed if not available

  • All average issue readers of a publication are asked:

    ‘How disappointed would you be if for any reason (name of publication) was not available’

    Very disappointed

    Fairly disappointed

    Not at all disappointed

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Topics of interestTopics read about in newspapers and magazines (in general, not title specific)















SPORT – broken out














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Publications on NRSOver 200 newspapers and consumer magazines

  • GB national daily newspapers plus Metro and Evening Standard (London)

  • Scottish daily and evening newspapers

  • GB national Sunday newspapers

  • Scottish Sunday newspapers

  • General weekly and fortnightly magazines

  • Women’s weekly and fortnightly magazines

  • General monthly magazines

  • Women’s monthly and bi-monthly magazines

  • Quarterly magazines

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Measures for newspaper on NRSMonday-Friday v. Saturday

  • For daily newspapers, NRS publishes separate estimates of Monday-Saturday issue (6-day) readership, Monday-Friday issue (5-day) readership and Saturday issue readership

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Monday-Friday and Saturday issue readership of daily newspapersAll adults

Source: NRS January-December 2003

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Measures for newspaper on NRS newspapersOver 40 newspaper sections listed

  • NRS publishes separate estimates for newspaper sections in the following categories:

  • Magazines and review supplements

  • Listing supplements

  • Business and Company News supplements

  • Personal Finance supplements

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Demographics newspapers

  • Income

  • Education

  • Qualifications

  • Ethnic origin

  • Geodemographics

    - Acorn

    - Mosaic

    - Financial Acorn

    - Financial Mosaic

    - Super Profiles

  • Sex

  • Age

  • Social Grade

  • Region – Standard, ITV, ISBA

  • Working status

  • Occupation and Industry

  • Marital status

  • Presence of children

  • Tenure on home

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Lifestyle newspapers

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Other Media newspapers

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NRS development programme newspapers

  • Introduction of DS-CAPI across full NRS sample from October 2003

  • NRS Xtra – readership of computer magazines

  • PML – Personalised Media List © for magazines – being tested on half the NRS sample from April 2004

  • Readership Accumulation over Time

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X newspapers


Readership of Computer Magazines

  • NRS Survey of the readership of computer magazines

  • Self completion questionnaire left with NRS respondents July 2002-June 2003

  • Readership data for 53 computer titles, plus full range of NRS classification data

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Readership Accumulation over Time newspapers

  • The standard NRS measures exposure to a single issue of a publication, and the probability of reading multiple issues

  • It does not measure how that exposure is distributed through time

  • From a media planning perspective, this has put press at a disadvantage compared to broadcast media

  • It is widely acknowledged that different types of publication have different patterns of readership accumulation over time – but until now, no authoritative measure of that accumulation

  • The objective of the NRS Readership Accumulation Survey is to provide that measure as the basis of time-based planning in press

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Readership Accumulation over Time newspapers

  • The NRS Readership Accumulation Survey was a completely separate research exercise from the main NRS, conducted for NRS by NOP

  • It used diaries placed with over 7,000 respondents to record their reading events over one week, noting cover dates and whether it was the first time they had read that particular issue

  • Publishers provided first appearance dates

  • The readership accumulation of a publication is based on the time lapse between its first appearance and its first time reading

  • The accumulation curves for each publication have been applied to the NRS readership estimates

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Access to NRS data for subscribers newspapers

  • The full NRS data is updated quarterly, for rolling 6 months’ and 12 months’ periods ending March, June, September and December

  • Most NRS subscribers have a Special Analysis Licence enabling them access to the full NRS database (including Readership Accumulation) and NRS Xtra via one of the authorised computer bureaux: IMS, KMR Software (Choices) or Telmar

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Access to NRS data for subscribers newspapers

  • Data tables are also available to subscribers on, updated quarterly (hard copy volumes are published twice a year)

  • Advance readership estimates are updated monthly on

  • To gain access to these data on, subscribers must first register on the website