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Report: Only 3 percent of newspaper reading is done online

A fascinating, involving, and, naturally, complex piece from Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab suggests that little news reading happens online. That suggests advertisers have simply given up on print newspapers.

Fairly fainting from frivolousness, I accidentally wandered onto the Nieman Journalism Lab site the other day.

This is a group of people who seem associated with Harvard, and are trying to make sense of that strange thing that some describe as "quality journalism."

I went there for a little heavy relief again Tuesday and discovered a very interesting tract, written by Martin Langeveld.

You know I won't get all the numerical nuances right when I tell you that he stared at a lot of numbers, accessed a number of electronic fingers for help, made one or two reasonably educated spread bets and came up with the node-stopping conclusion that only 3 percent of newspaper reading happens online.

Yes, I thought you'd say that.

So, let me relay just a couple of his thoughts before you wander over there to delve into his full logic and that of his remarkably civilized commenters.

CC BA Sykes/Flickr

In the absence of any remotely accurate research, he estimated that the average print reader gives 25 minutes of his or her daily life to the newspaper. And 35 minutes on a Sunday.

He also estimated that the average print reader looks at (and, goodness, looking is such a nuanced idea) 24 pages in that newspaper. Which is roughly half the newspaper pages that are published in the US.

Finally, he chose to believe the Newspaper Association of America's research that 2.128 readers peruse every print copy.

On the online side, Mr. Langeveld turned to Nielsen, which declared that in 2008 newspapers enjoyed 3.2 billion page views per month. Which is 3.5 percent of the 87.1 billion printed page views he calculated for print, using the assumptions above.

You'll get no more figures out of me. However, is it possible that, if these calculations are even remotely accurate, they suggest that advertisers decided, one fine day, that print newspapers were simply not where it was at anymore?

As they themselves read news online, Twittered, Facebooked and exclusively met lovers on, they couldn't believe that anyone read print newspapers anymore. Perhaps those who do are, for some bizarre reason, simply not attractive to advertisers.

Or perhaps there came a day when advertisers just didn't believe the print newspaper industry's figures anymore.

Don't ask me, ask these clever Harvard chaps. I am sure they're working on this while you have your dinner.