Post rebound predicted; Metro corners youth

The National Post is losing and the Globe and Mail is gaining, according to the latest Interim Report issued by the Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank). But some media buyers wonder whether the numbers, which showed the Post losing 23% of its readers in the Toronto market, accurately reflect the current situation for the CanWest-owned daily newspaper.

The National Post is losing and the Globe and Mail is gaining, according to the latest Interim Report issued by the Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank). But some media buyers wonder whether the numbers, which showed the Post losing 23% of its readers in the Toronto market, accurately reflect the current situation for the CanWest-owned daily newspaper.

The recently issued report reveals that average weekly readership in Toronto for the Post fell to 221,100 from 285,600 a year ago. Over the same period, the Globe gained 14% in the same category – increasing readership from 454,400 to 519,600.

But buyers point out that the NADbank survey was conducted from January to June of 2002, on the heels of cutbacks at the Post, which slashed some of its local Toronto and arts coverage at the end of 2001. The daily then began to rebuild editorial in April of this year and lowered its price to 25 cents in May of 2002.

Hugh Dow, president of Toronto-based M2 Universal, notes that the changes occurred in April, as the Post was nearing the end of the NADbank measurement period – so there might not have been an adequate window to reflect a turn-around in readership.

Dow expects to see readership gains in the coming months and will be watching the Post’s own proprietary research, to be released in the next few weeks, for more current information. ‘I would certainly expect to see a degree of improvement, particularly for the Toronto market, because of some of the specific Toronto editorial changes that were made,’ says Dow. ‘That will also increase their numbers on a national basis.’

Debbie King, EVP and managing director of Toronto’s Optimedia, counters that a rebound shouldn’t be taken for granted. ‘They made a huge mistake with that cost-cutting measure. They have now made some changes in terms of making the paper a better product, but it’s tougher to win back lost readers than to gain new ones. It remains to be seen whether they can win back readers.’

But Rosenblum notes that early this year, after a steady decline in 2001, the Post’s readership numbers were already beginning to creep back up again. Rosenblum says he will turn to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) report, due out at the end of the year, for circulation information current to the end of November of 2002.

Meanwhile, the free daily commuter tabloid Metro, a joint venture between Torstar Corp. and Metro International SA of Sweden, made significant gains in the Toronto market. According to the NADbank survey, it even inched past the Post. Metro gained a substantial 114,200 readers in the read-yesterday category over the last year, edging up to 326,000.

Dow says the latest numbers for Metro prove that it is a force to be reckoned with in the Toronto market. According to M2′s own research, Metro is particularly important to readers in the 18-to-34 age group. And NADbank’s data reveals that Metro is the only daily newspaper some people read in Toronto. ‘The paper attracts an important audience, and in many respects, it’s an exclusive audience,’ says Dow. ‘So the only way you can reach the 18-to-34 group is through Metro.’