No one has ever accused me of being a math whiz. Given that warning, let’s look at some numbers, specifically recently released 2007 readership numbers for the two daily newspapers here in Vancouver. The two, both owned by CanWest, reported on the release of the Newspaper Audience Databank Inc. (NADbank) survey for 2007 today.

The article spoke of “slight declines” in readership of both newspapers. A quick read of the piece makes it appear as though the declines were on the order of a couple of percentage points. An example:

The Sun showed slight declines in readership of its print editions, with 449,500 adults ages 18 and older, or 24.5 per cent of readers, reporting to the survey that they read the newspaper the previous day, down from 480,700 or 26.7 per cent in 2006.

Throughout the article, the same comparison is made: a year-to-year comparison of the percentage of total newspaper readersin the market, which was down, in the case of both weekday and weekend readership, for both the Sun and the Province.

If you crunch the numbers differently, the impression is a little different. If you compare the average number of readers, as opposed to the percentage of the total number of readers, the percentage losses grow. The Vancouver Sun lost 6.5 per cent of its weekday readers (from an average of 480,700 in 2006 to 449,500 last year), and 4.6 per cent of its average weekend readers (511,700 to 488,000). Based on the numbers in the article, the Province dropped 15.8 per cent of its weekday readers (491,600 to 414,000) and 9.8 per cent of its average weekend readers (435,600 to 393,000).

Being able to claim more than 400,000 readers is, of course, nothing to sneer at, particularly when both newspapers are making the claim and they are both owned by the same company. But the numbers, no matter which way they’re crunched, show the readership losses aren’t being reversed.

(There is, of course, a whole bunch of information missing from the article, including any indication of how readership is defined. NADBank is hardly a disinterested party, either, being “a research arm of the Canadian daily newspaper industry, with membership that includes publishers, advertising agencies and advertisers.” At the NADBank website we learn the research is gathered through telephone interviews but that detailed information on methodology is available only to members.)

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