The Future of News

Ryan Thornburg

Correct Audience Numbers for The Columbia Tribune

I made an error in the piece I wrote for PBS Media Shift Idea Lab yesterday. I misrepresented the audience for The Columbia Tribune. The paper’s general manager, Andy Waters, kindly brought it to my attention and I want to offer a correction here.

Numbers that Waters sent me from The Media Audit show that the news organization reaches nearly 80 percent of the 130,000 adults in its market. I used a small potential audience base and a smaller penetration rate when I wrote up the post. That number was no good and I should’ve known better than to use it. I simply took the print circulation and divided it by the Census estimate of residents in Columbia.

You could go all night quibbling about audience measurement methodologies, but whatever faults The Media Audit numbers may or may not have, they are certainly better than the way I tried to calculate it.

And I think this is a particularly important measurement to correct because of the number of unsourced posts that you can find on the Internet saying that the Tribune lost anywhere between 25 and 40 percent of its online audience when it implemented online subscriptions. I’m not fact-checking those claims one way or the other, and even if true they may not be important. I’m repeating it here only to provide context for the correction and to hopefully spur some critical thinking about any audience claims you see — including mine.

Anyway. The Media Audit numbers that Waters showed me indicate that out of a base population of 130,634 adults 18 or older, 103,260 of them – or 79 percent – say they read the Tribune either in print or online. The print edition (weekday/Sunday) reaches 62 percent of the market at least once a week, and the website reaches 52.5 percent of the market at least once a month.

I hope that gives a better picture of the kind of environment in which the Tribune’s OpenBlock experiment is taking place. And the point I was trying to make I think remains valid — that Columbia, Mo., is WAY different than Chicago or Charlotte or San Francisco.

Written by Ryan Thornburg

August 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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