Communities served by community newspapers continue to demonstrate heavy reliance upon their local papers for news and information. Seventy-three percent say they read a local newspaper at least once a week.
Readers also say they read most or all of their community newspapers (78 percent), and of those going online for local news, 55 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 26 percent for the website of a local TV station.
The results are reported by the National Newspaper Association, which has just completed its fifth readership survey on the patterns of community newspaper readers. Working with the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, NNA tests reactions of people living in smaller communities served by local newspapers.
Since 2005, NNA has done research on how people read and what they think about their local newspapers. Results have been fairly consistent over the years, though the surveys have focused more tightly on small communities during the five years. For the 2010 survey, readership for towns with newspapers that have circulations of 8,000 or less were sampled. The community size has not significantly affected outcomes. The surveys show that community newspapers have remained popular.
The early data indicate that the positive findings are consistent with the earlier surveys:
-73 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week.
-Those readers, on average, share their paper with 3.34 persons.
-They spend about 37.5 minutes reading their local newspapers.
-78 percent read most or all of their community newspapers.
-41 percent keep their community newspapers six or more days (shelf life).
-62 percent of readers read local news very often in their community newspapers, while 54 percent say they never read local news online (only 9 percent say they read local news very often online).
-39 percent of those surveyed read local education (school) news very often in their newspapers, while 67 percent never read local education news online.
-30 percent read local sports news very often in their newspapers, while 67 percent never read local sports online.
-35 percent read editorials or letters to the editor very often in their newspapers, while 74 percent (nearly three quarters) never read editorials or letters to the editor online.
Even though state and local governments are debating the best way to transmit public notice, those readers surveyed said newspapers remain the best way to receive such notices:
-75 percent think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers, with 23 percent reading public notices very often in their newspapers.
-71 percent have Internet access in the home, but 66 percent never visit a website of a local government.
-Of those with Internet access at home, 89 percent have broadband access.
The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 49.3 percent of respondents. The next best source runs a distant second: friends and relatives for 18 percent of respondents and TV, 16 percent. Readers are nearly seven times more likely to get their local news from their community newspapers than from the Internet (7.7 percent). Less than 6 percent say their primary local news source is radio.
Watch for additional information, charts and presentations from the survey in future issues of Publishers’ Auxiliary and on NNA’s website.
Established in 1885, NNA is the voice of America’s community newspapers and the largest newspaper association in the country. The nation’s community papers inform, educate and entertain nearly 150 million readers every week.
The 2010 survey was based on 670 telephone interviews completed with residents that lived in areas where the local newspapers had a circulation of 8,000 or less in the U.S. in August and October 2010. Please note that this sampling methodology differs from the survey conducted in 2009, which was based on 500 telephone interviews completed with residents that lived in areas where the local newspapers had a circulation of 15,000 or less. Because of this new methodology, the 2010 survey had the highest percentage of non-daily newspaper readers (66.2 percent), compared to previous years. This may explain the reduction in the percentage of visits to newspaper Web sites (from 63 percent to 55 percent) between the two years (2009 and 2010) as the number of non-daily newspapers that have a functional website serving small towns and cities may be lower than that of daily newspapers. Further, in the 2010 survey, cell phone numbers were included in the sample, compared to landline numbers only in the past four years. As a result, the average age of the 2010 respondents (51.2) was younger than those in previous years (56.1). Please refer to the full study for more information about the research methods and results.