Newspapers still work because people still read them

By Stephen Rhodes

I am planning a series on media use, both old and new, because we seem to get a disproportionate number of clients coming to us looking to leap into Social Media. Not that social media is bad, but leaping is if you are unsure about what lies below.

The first is about traditional media and in particular newspapers. I have some experience in the area, spending about 30 years as a reporter editor and publisher. Newspapers have fallen on hard times as other media have emerged…magazines, radio, television, online and  social media.

Last year the Toronto Star reported “newspapers are proving so resilient that the term ‘dying newspaper industry’ will be retired in the next year or two.” Remember the predictions about radio’s demise in the 50s – more on that in a future post.

“Newspapers are still profitable, even in the midst of the most punishing ad drought in memory. Readership is at record levels, despite price hikes imposed by publishers. And web interlopers haven’t laid a glove on the industry’s status as society’s dominant news-gatherer.”

Canadian papers  survived “2009’s stomach-churning plunge in advertising revenues” and “appear poised for a bright future” despite anaemic ad revenue growth and the loss of classified.

Readership of Canada’s 95 dailies has increased, with people spending more time reading print editions than they do accessing online versions.

The report concludes that the growing flood of information available on the web “is a boon to traditional newspapers”. Why? Because “they alone have the expertise to quickly collect and verify staggering amounts of data and present it in reader-friendly formats.”

2010 Readership Highlights

47% of adults 18+ read a daily newspaper on the average weekday
73% of adults 18+ read a printed daily newspaper in the past week
22% of adults 18+ read a daily newspaper online in the past week
78% of adults 18+ read either a printed or online edition of a daily newspaper in the past week

Almost 8 out of 10 adults living in markets where daily newspapers are available read either a printed edition or visited a newspaper website each week. Migration to newspaper websites continues, but the printed edition remains the most popular way to read a newspaper. Across all markets 73% read a printed edition of a daily newspaper each week and 71% of readers read only the printed edition.

2010 Study readership results show that 15 million (78% reach) adults read a daily newspaper or visited a newspaper website each week up from 14.7 million in 2009. Newspapers continue to demonstrate their value to Canadians every day. The numbers are a couple of years old, but if you look at the four year trend, it’s positive.

So, newspapers still command readership and that’s good news for someone still trying to reach customers. Coming next – Radio.

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