The first results are under embargo until Wednesday (12 September), when the combined readership for all major UK national newspapers and consumer magazines as well as data from over 400 non-publisher websites can be reported.
The new combined dataset includes online and print products but not mobile, apps and other digital products. Mike Ironside, chief executive of the National Readership Survey, told Journalism.co.uk the dataset released today represents the first step and mobile and other digital products are "definitely on our radar".
In a release NRS said the new dataset will provide "the planning, buying and selling communities with a continuous single-source trading and planning currency for the first time from NRS".
Statistics will also be given for the "unique audience for print and online", a "comparison of in-depth print and online age and demographic profile data", the "reach and frequency for print and online", and insight into "the non-publisher websites readers of newspapers and magazines visit online".
Ironside told Journalism.co.uk that the decision to add readership figures for online was made around two-and-a-half years ago.
"We sat there and said 'where do you go with a print-only survey in terms of the requirements of the advertisers and the publishers themselves?' Of course the answer is 'not very far' and you were basically tracking decline."
Ironside said that NRS decided to go "where our audience has gone", and expand "into the digital arena".
Previously NRS had asked some digital questions as part of its annual face-to-face survey of 36,000 people. "But the problem is on a recall basis, do you remember a website you were on a month ago? Of course you don't," Ironside explained.
NRS then teamed up with UKOM/Nielsen, which provides the online data, and commissioned RSMB Television Research to work on combining the print and online data into a single dataset.
The combined dataset is known as 'print and digital data' (PADD), which is the "gross audience of the print news product across two different platforms".
In addition to data on news sites and magazine sites, information is also included on other websites visited, such as Google, EasyJet, and social media sites.
"So what you'll be able to see is not just where the reader of the Daily Telegraph goes in terms of print products, but you'll be able to see where they go on the internet."
Ironside described the new dataset as "game-changing for lots of publications".
"For advertisers this is incredibly important as all of a sudden we have now brought people to the measurement, it's not about machines, it's not IP addresses."
Asked about the embargoed figures, Ironside said some of the results are surprising and there are "enormous variances".
He added: "There are going to be some real winners in this to the point of it being game changing."
"If I think about a quality newspaper in the UK, it will take their readership back to the level [of readers] that they used to produce in the year 2000. After more than 10 years of decline, this gives them back that audience."
Ironside said that the PADD dataset "adds something new to the market place, it's not trying to do what ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulation] does, it's bringing people to it".
"It will show huge benefits to the media industry in total."
The release adds that the introduction of online audience data represents the most significant development to the NRS in more than 50 years.
The data published today – which Journalism.co.uk and other sites are permitted to report on Wednesday – shows readership data for the period April 2011 to March 2012. A further two reports will be issued later this year.
- 2012 data puts Daily Mail top for total print and web readers
- Guardian's combined monthly readership top of quality titles
- NRS: Telegraph is UK's most-read quality daily
- NRS: Guardian has highest combined print and online monthly readership for quality titles
- Simon Rogers wins 'statistical excellence in journalism' award