1996 report on newspaper and magazine readership measurement in Europe.

ESOMAR (European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research)
The Netherlands
Toby Syfret
United Kingdom


Every year, many studies are conducted which have the measurement of readership as one of their goals. They vary hugely in design and content. Yet, no matter how much they differ, they share the aim of measuring readership with accuracy and impartiality, for which they rely on the ability of people to recall past reading events. A further requirement of many regular surveys is the stability of successive readership estimates. Satisfying the various requirements for accuracy, impartiality and stability of measurement in often complex interview conditions which test peoples' memories presents many challenges about what questions to ask and what presentation methods to employ. Experience over many years has shown that numerous, and sometimes seemingly inconspicuous, variables can significantly affect readership estimates. Understandably, this has created considerable general interest within national research communities about what goes on and what has been learned in other countries. Such an interest is exemplified by the biennial Worldwide Readership Research Symposia, which were inaugurated in 1981. They have become a celebrated forum for debating the many conceptual and empirical issues arising from readership research. The purpose of the ESOMAR 1996 Report on Newspaper and Magazine Readership Measurement in Europe is to supply further information about the state of play in other countries. It is more or less a repeat of the ESOMAR 1994 Report on Newspaper and Magazine Readership Measurement in Europe, which was conducted for the first time two years ago. In either case the aim has been to offer a comprehensive overview of national and international readership survey practice throughout Europe. The national surveys included in the ESOMAR 1994 and 1996 readership reports have been selected according to five criteria.

  1. They must be national.
  2. They must be general. By this is meant, broad in their coverage of newspaper and magazine titles, as opposed to focusing on specific areas, such as children's or business magazines.
  3. They must have more than one media sponsor/subscriber.
  4. Measurement of newspaper and/or consumer magazine readership must count as one of their primary aims.
  5. They must be conducted and reported on regularly. Or, if they are new surveys, they must plan to be conducted and reported on at regular intervals.