There are a number of caveats, not the least of which is that the Nieman study doesn’t count readers: It can’t, and News Corp. is under no obligation to publicly disclose this metric.
News Corp. said a month ago that downloads were in the “hundreds of thousands.” But even this doesn’t reveal much, because the app is inoperable unless you pay for a subscription after a trial period.
In the absence of primary data, Nieman had the intriguing idea to extrapolate from the indirect evidence of the number of times a Daily story was tweeted from within the app. The idea is that sharing trends might indicate relative subscriber levels, assuming that the sharing impulse is pretty much always the same.
Nieman acknowledges that tweeting volume needn’t necessarily correlate with subscribership in an intuitive way. Still, the theory seems sound: If tweeting from The Daily goes up, it might only mean that people are tweeting more, or it could mean that more people are tweeting. If tweeting goes down, it might mean that the impediments to tweeting have increased (e.g., the button was resized in an app upgrade, which didn’t happen), or it might mean that there are fewer subscribers.
Whatever the cause, tweeting from within the app has consistently trended down, Nieman found, using the help of social media firm PostRank, in what it called “a discouraging trend.”