Media Management Center at Northwestern University
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© 2005 Readership Institute
Updated April 2005
Understanding and Calculating Reader Behavior Scores
For more information:
Mary Nesbitt, 847-467-4285,
Introduction: Why measure RBS?
What newspapers want and need to do is to change the way people read the newspaper --
to induce people to read more often, to spend more time with the newspaper, to read more
parts of it, on weekdays and on Sundays. It's all about changing reader behavior.
The first step to changing those behaviors is measuring them in greater detail. The
Readership Institute, as part of its Impact study of readership, developed (and tested with
37,000 consumers in 100 U.S. markets) a short series of questions that drive to the
dimensions of frequency, time and completeness of reading.
With this information, newspapers can calculate a “Reader Behavior Score” (RBS) for
the overall newspaper, individual sections, and different demographic groups. Having
established a baseline measure, newspapers can track progress over time by measuring
RBS periodically – seeing, for instance, whether content initiatives are intensifying the
reading behaviors of the target groups.
Measuring RBS has great value to individual newspapers. Additionally, in the long-term,
it will be possible to establish industry norms, so that newspaper can not only track their
own progress, but see how they are doing compared to the industry, other newspapers in
similar markets and newspapers of similar circulation size.
The questions can easily be added to newspapers’ current readership survey repertoire.
The questions (see below) measure time, frequency, and completeness of reading, during
the week and on Sundays. Using the instructions below, responses to these questions can
be combined into one RBS score for each respondent. On a 1-7 scale, an RBS of 1
represents someone who rarely or never looks into the newspaper, while an RBS of 7
depicts a person who spends a great deal of time reading most of the paper, every day of