At electronica I had an interesting conversation with Martin Savery, publisher of EDN Europe and EPN. Recently Reed conducted some research to understand the degree to which engineers had accepted EDNE’s switch to 100% digital distribution.
Perhaps the most interesting question was How regularly do you read the digital edition of EDN Europe?. A stunning 63% said that they read every issue, and 31% said that they read EDNE occasionally. In reality, however, digital magazines – including EDNE – record an open rate of around 20%. So how can we explain the figures?
Of course there is the fact that all these surveys are self selecting – if you read the magazine, then you are more likely to respond to the survey. Claiming that you read publications to keep your knowledge up to date is clearly something that people would want to do, and perhaps this is the main source of bias.
The results of the research is not that dissimilar to the stats you’d see if a print publication runs readership research. It’s reasonable to assume that people do claim to read publications more frequently than they actually do. But the research raises the following big question:

Is the level of error different in print readership surveys, or can we assume that in reality just 20% of print magazines get read?

I certainly didn’t expect to be questioning whether digital magazines achieved the same open rates as print titles for several years. Anecdotal evidence suggest that they don’t. But this research does suggest that print readership might have been overestimated, and the value of a digital magazine in terms of the number of readers it attracts could be approach that of the much more expensive print issue.