Just as when Martin Langveld pulled a statistical rabbit out of his hat to show that almost all "newspaper reading" happens in print, this post will be celebrated by print executives seeking comfort in their old ways.
Chittum argues that most newspaper audience consumption happens in print, not online.
Chittum calculates total time on the New York Times' site by multiplying 17.4 million visitors by the 14:29 average each visitor spent on the site (in a normal month the TOS is twice that, as he acknowledges). 17.4 million visitors times the more-normal 30 minutes on site per visit would be 8.7 million hours a month online. (Update: An earlier version calculated time based on data of time per visit. Nielsen actually counts total time per visitor for the month, as Ryan notes in the comments. Numbers have been updated.)
Chittum calculates readers spend 26.4 million with the print newspaper each month. And that calculation is far less certain. To calculate the amount of hours spent with the newspaper, Chittum adopts an internal estimate by the New York Times that every reader spends an average of 30 minutes a day. That's an unsubstantiated internal number thrown out by an executive (during a web chat, ironically). There's just no way this is true. Many subscribers don't even pick up the paper on a given day, many more only see the front page. Certainly there aren't 2.2 readers each spending an average of 30 minutes a day with every copy printed. When a newspaper pays a consultant to tell them people spend time reading their paper, the consultant tells them that. At least web analytics are real.
This numbers argument aside, Chittum's a pretty smart guy. I disagree with him on some things (pay walls, AP's DRM strategy), but he's not one of the ink-stained denialists.
He acknowledges at the end of his post that the discussion of the present numbers isn't even the most important metric. What matters is the trend -- what market is growing, which one is shrinking:
"This analysis doesn’t present any trendlines, which are moving away from print and toward online. But this is fifteen years into the age of the online newspaper—and going on a decade into the high-speed Internet era—and you can spin it a couple of ways: It points to the surprising resiliency of print, or it signals the pitiful job newspapers have done online.So whatever you choose to believe about the current balance of readership, we all know which way it's going -- online -- and that we need to get ahead of it.
"I’d say it’s some of both."