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MD hits out over '39pc readership slump' claim

The boss of a leading Scottish daily has hit out over an industry survey which claimed it had suffered a slump of nearly 40pc in readership.

The latest National Readership Survey claimed Glasgow’s Herald had lost 39pc of its readers in the past year.

The NRS figure reveals that that the Scottish daily title had an average readership of 130,000 in the period July 2009 to June 2010, a fall of 39pc on the previous year.

It contrasts sharply with the latest ABC data published last month, which showed the circulation of the Herald dropped just 6.8pc year-on-year during the period January-June 2010, to 52,182.

Tim Blott, managing director for Newsquest’s Scottish titles, said: “I am going to complain strongly about the process. I can’t see the correlation between our circulation and the readership figure by NRS.”

He claims that, taking online readers alongside those who read the printed version, The Herald’s readership has nearly doubled in the last five years.

Said Tim: “Since the arrival of Jonathan Russell as editor, The Herald has experienced a surge in sales culminating in its recent best year on year sales performance. The Sunday Herald, as recent ABC figures show was the only national quality Sunday to actually grow sales year on year (+4.61pc).

“Whilst I appreciate the NRS is the accepted industry currency vis-a-vis readership data, it is hugely frustrating to challenge the latest readership figures which are diametrically opposed to our most recent sales figures.

“I would therefore have to disagree that there has been a steep fall in total readership, although it is becoming increasingly obvious that the reading behaviour of our audience is changing, as witnessed by other newspaper titles.

“Where once readers used to buy at least three out of four issues, they are now presented with an online version of our brand as an alternative. The Herald’s total audience – both in print and online – has risen by 95pc in the last five years.”

The Audit Bureau of Circulations figures reveal the number of copies of a paper sold or distributed. However the NRS surveys a panel of 36,000 people to calculate how many readers a publication has.

A spokesman for the NRS said it could not comment on individual publications but defended the methodology used in the survey. “It’s a set methodology that is agreed by the organisations which fund the NRS including the publishers,” he said.