NADbank’s broad readership just the beginning for media buyers

In the raging battle for supremacy within Canada's newspaper industry, the annual Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank) study has become a high-profile measure for determining winners and losers....

In the raging battle for supremacy within Canada’s newspaper industry, the annual Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank) study has become a high-profile measure for determining winners and losers.

But do advertisers really care about that?

When the most recent NADbank results came out Nov. 10, the broad readership figures received the usual wealth of press coverage. But for clients and their media buyers, those aren’t the numbers in the study that really matter.

‘Everyone would like to think that purchase decisions and pricing are based on those [readership] numbers,’ says Mark Sherman, president of Toronto-based Media Experts. ‘[But] a decision to use The Calgary Herald over The Calgary Sun on a year-to-year basis is not affected by the outcome of the NADbank numbers.’

The real heart of the survey, Sherman says, is the more detailed demographic and psychographic information that it provides about the readers of newspapers in 46 Canadian markets.

NADbank doesn’t just look at how many people of different ages, genders and income brackets read a given newspaper. The survey also collects data on their consumption of products and services across a wide range of categories, and on their lifestyles and media habits. One can learn from it, for example, just how many readers of The Toronto Sun also shop at The Bay.

This information allows advertisers to finely tune their print media buy, to target precisely those people who are most likely to buy their product or service.

Rob McCaig, advertising manager for Business Depot, says his company will certainly take note of this year’s broad readership numbers – especially for Vancouver and Calgary, where the local papers have undergone significant changes. But he’s much more interested in consumer data on adults 25-54, and in findings that pertain to the small office/home office market – a major area of growth for the Markham, Ont.-based retailer.

‘There’s information here that pertains to trends in our industry,’ McCaig says. ‘The more information provided to retailers the better – especially these days, when the cost of newspaper advertising is escalating and there’s so much to choose from. You want to be right on the mark – you don’t just want to do the shotgun approach.’

Lynn Mayer, vice-president, director of media planning with Toronto-based Bates Canada, agrees.

The product- and category-specific information that NADbank delivers can be an extremely useful tool, she says. For example, there’s data on how newspapers deliver against various categories of car buyer – something that comes in handy when Bates does planning for client Hyundai Auto Canada.

Still, NADbank alone is not enough, Mayer says. To be certain about which newspapers to buy, Bates cross-references the study’s data with information from PMB Print Measurement Bureau.

While clients who rely heavily on newsprint tend to speak favourably of NADbank, it’s not a tool that is used universally.

Dell Canada, for example, prefers to employ its own data, rather than studies like NADbank.

‘We have a fairly sophisticated system of tracking response from the advertisements we run, and really, that’s the tool we use to decide where we will and won’t advertise,’ says Peter Bishop, director of marketing at Toronto-based Dell.

Sidebar: NADbank survey highlights

The Globe and Mail can carry on calling itself ‘Canada’s National Newspaper’ – at least for a little while longer.

According to the results of the annual Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank) study, the Globe boasts a national readership of 1,125,400, versus 967,500 for its nemesis the National Post.

NADbank also shows that, on an average weekday, the Globe is read by more people in 13 of the 23 markets where the two national dailies were measured. And, because of the strength of its weekend edition, more people pick up a copy of the Globe during an average week in all but three of those markets.

‘I think it’s a very good set of results for the Globe, in that readership is up over the previous figures,’ says Philip Crawley, publisher of The Globe and Mail. ‘Even with the extra competition out there, we’re continuing to grow.’

However, the Post is gaining ground. The paper – which was launched in October 1998 – now leads the Globe by a wide margin in such key markets as Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver, and its readership on an average weekday in the Toronto market has grown by more than 15% since the NADbank survey conducted last fall.

Don Babick, publisher of the Post, says the results make clear that his publication has fulfilled its ambition to be a truly national newspaper.

‘Just a little shy of a million readers in two years is nothing to sniff at,’ he says. ‘And 350,000 in [the Toronto] market is nothing to sniff at.’

The Globe’s readership in Toronto has grown nearly 14% since last fall, while Canada’s largest urban daily, The Toronto Star, increased its readership by approximately 6%. The Toronto Sun, meanwhile, saw its average weekday readership go up almost 9%.

‘Once again, our total is greater than that of our three competitors combined,’ crows John Honderich, publisher of the Star.

According to previous NADbank studies, the Star’s readership had been slipping. Honderich says he’s heartened by the indication that his paper is now regaining ground.

Overall, the study shows that newspaper readership rose 0.4% in Canada’s top 17 markets.

Because the NADbank survey was conducted between February and June, the figures don’t account for any gains or losses caused by the introduction of three free commuter dailies into the Toronto market this past summer. CS