Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's a pretty good time to be a community newspaper

Every year, the Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Missouri surveys residents of mid-sized and small communities in the U.S. about their habits and preferences in getting information about the places they live.

In other words, the center gathers data about places like eastern Idaho. Commissioned by the National Newspaper Association, this survey inevitably shows different results than research done more broadly, which tends to focus on large markets.
           
As usual, the 2011 survey found that newspapers, far from becoming irrelevant as has become popular to suggest (particularly among our good friends in competing media), continue to be – by a large margin – the most likely place people go to get their community news.
           
Click on chart to enlarge.
In fact, as has been the case in past studies, the second most-popular place to get community news – behind newspapers, of course – is “friends and family.” More specifically, 52 percent of those surveyed said that the newspaper was their primary source for news about the local community. In second place, friends and family was the primary source for 16 percent. Television came in third at 13 percent and the Internet was fourth at 7 percent.
           
Now, what’s all of this stuff about newspapers going away? Not even close.
           
In fact, when asked where they prefer to get their community news, respondents were even more emphatic. Fifty-four percent cited newspapers, compared to 15 percent for TV, 11 percent for friends and family, and 7 percent for radio.
           
Click on chart to enlarge.
There’s more. Where do people go for information about shopping? You guessed it – the newspaper. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they often use newspaper advertising inserts to make buying decisions. Seventy-nine percent said they’d rather look at a newspaper ad than a commercial on TV or the Internet. That number has increased since previous surveys in 2009 and 2010.
           
In fact, about half of those surveyed said there are days when they read the newspaper as much for the advertising as the news content. What other medium can say that?
           
When asked which information source they rely on most to make purchasing decisions, newspapers came in second this time – behind information found in the store, named by 43 percent of those surveyed. Newspapers were a close second at 40 percent. TV, you ask? Two percent, tied with the Internet.
           
The vast majority of newspaper readers, by the way, still prefer to get the paper the old-fashioned way – on, well, paper. Even though 70 percent of those responding said they had Internet access at home (and 89 percent of those use a broadband connection), 48 percent of those with Internet access said they “never” read local news online.
         
Here’s the finding I consider most important – 76 percent of those surveyed said they at least generally agreed with the statement that they trust the newspaper they read more than any other information source.
           
These results don’t sound to me like an industry in trouble. Do they to you?

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