Readership survey puts London Lite ahead in freebie war

London Lite is ahead of arch rival thelondonpaper on readership despite being behind on circulation, according to an independent readership survey released today.

The quarterly National Readership Survey shows that over the last six months the Associated Newspapers-owned title is read by an average of 740,000 people per day with News International owned thelondonpaper marginally behind on 713,000. However NI and Associated have clashed over the validity of the survey.

The NRS survey included the two London free papers for the first time and also claims that London Lite’s sister free national title Metro is up 31 per cent year-on-year to 2.35m readers a day.

The Evening Standard’s averagereadership is down 12 per cent year-on-year to an average of 720,000. The Standard released a statement stressing that the NRS figures show a period-on-period rise for January to June 2007 and an increase of 4.4 percent compared to the previous six months.

A spokeswoman said: ‘These figures prove that the circulation and audience of the paper has stabilised and readership is on the increase. Our own research has shown that commuters spend three times longer reading each copy of the Evening Standard than the free London titles. The Evening Standard delivers both scale and also depth and quality of readership.’

Steve Auckland, managing director of free newspapers at Associated Newspapers said: ‘We are very pleased with the NRS readership estimates and profile data. Many agencies have wanted industry-recognised data for both evening titles and now, they finally have it. This is the most accurate data available to date, and London Lite came out on top on the key measures.

‘We have always maintained that a distribution figure of 400,000 is a responsible, realistic reflection of the demand for the product between 4.30 and 7.30pm. This is a great result for everyone involved with London Lite and especially editor, Ted Young, and his hard working team.’

Thelondonpaper general manager Ian Clark said: ’44 per cent of thelondonpaper’s readers are ABC1 under 35, well ahead of the Evening Standard (25 per cent) and Metro (35 per cent).”

The News International title questioned the validity of the survey’s headline figures, pointing out that NRS interviewed ‘only 231 readers of thelondonpaper’when compiling data.

Clark said: ‘During this period, over 60m copies of thelondonpaper were distributed. The NRS continues to address this issue and is committed to improving its methodology in London.

‘Media buyers will understand that the NRS figures are based on a claimed readership and are subject to wide variation when confidence limits are applied. As stated on the NRS report itself, this means they are 95 per cent confident and that the ‘actual’ readership could be plus or minus 112,000 readers in relation to the estimate published. Readership of thelondonpaper could be as high as 825,000 and London Lite’s readership could be as low as 631,000. For this market, this distinction is evidently critical.”

The NRS is based on average issue readership estimates. Any period-on-period comparison is a difference in readership estimate, not actual readership.

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