Problems With Measuring Readership

You want to measure readership.

So, you truly understand who a reader is in the viral age? Is it a person who viewed your article? Is it a subscriber?

Before you know, another rush of questions are already swarming around. Is there a point in counting readers? Are they all equal in their marketing weight?

Being chased by these questions is absolutely normal for publishers who are getting acquainted with content analytics.

Does readership refer to the number of subscribers?

Let’s first define what makes a reader.

For a print newspaper in the 1980s, readers equaled subscribers who received a paper each morning. You couldn’t measure the time they spent on it: even if they covered furniture with that paper while painting walls, they would be nevertheless counted as readers.

Today, we can measure everything. Big data introduced the luxury of identifying the quality of user interaction with your materials. We can gauge time spent on page or follow the reader path. We are able to trace back the behavior of every visitor. It is easy to distinguish those who are simply used to click on every catchy headline from those who sit slack-jawed reading your articles.

How does it alter the definition of a reader?

Since we can now differentiate a qualified reader from a fly–by, it wouldn’t be a mistake to call the reader a person who actually reads your stories. In other words, they are engaged visitors.

Readership as a concept, in fact, is blurred

As you can see, readership does not refer to just people anymore. It’s more about the behavior rather than numbers. Readership is directly connected with metrics that tell you how visitors interacted with your content.

Visitors don’t equal readers. Visitors convert into readers and you can track at which rate.

To get these insights, digital publishers and content websites switch from “counting” to “measuring.” From “magazine” to “TV” approach.

Youtube looks at “average view duration.”

Medium relies on a “total time reading” as the only metric that matters.

Upworthy has developed the “attention minutes” metric.

Getting a clear picture of visitor behavior brings you to the understanding of what drives subscriptions. You can see how many articles/pages were viewed by unique visitors – how frequently visitors become readers. You can find out what held their attention and where did they stop. It leads to essential changes in content marketing strategy that, in turn, increase the number of subscriptions.

Readership is only the tip of an iceberg

Considering the points above, you may now conclude that it would be more appropriate to refer to your visitors as visitors until they get engaged. Knowing the number of visitors is not pointless – it gives you an overview of how many people were on your site per selected time frame.

What are the metrics that give you a more complete picture?

Page views shows how many times unique visitors got engaged with your pages. In other words, how many times a visitor became a reader.

IO Technologies’ analytics dashboard

Time spent on page indicates how much time a reader spent on a particular page. It doesn’t paint a complete picture of visitor engagement though: we can open a page and get distracted by our dog, or go visit some other pages, leaving the tabs opened.

Readability is more in-depth metric since it defines how many readers made it to the end of an article.

Recirculation tells how many readers clicked on other articles.

All these metrics together indicate the value of your content in the eyes of readers and provide actionable insights on how to improve your content strategy.