Community newspapers still tops for local news
by Jack Mcneely
Apr 14, 2013 | 526 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Mcneely
Jack Mcneely
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A national survey by a respected journalism research firm says community newspaper readers, such as you, say they prefer their local papers for getting their news and information.

The survey was recently conducted for the National Newspaper Association by the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. This is the survey’s seventh year.

Of importance to our readers, the survey was conducted in small U.S. towns and cities where the circulation size of the local newspaper was 15,000 or less. Your Daily Mountain Eagle currently has a paid circulation of nearly 9,500.

This survey shows that without a doubt, people read their community newspapers. The numbers show that we connect with our readership family.

Since 2005, NNA has done research on how people read and what they think about their local newspaper. Results have been consistent over the years, even as sample and community sizes have been adjusted slightly.

Of those who participated in the survey, 52 percent were daily newspaper readers, and 48 percent were non-daily readers. The circulation sizes of the newspapers ranged from 309 to 14,943.

The trend for readership of community newspapers is consistent with earlier surveys. The study showed that 71 percent of the respondents read a community newspaper at least once a week. Analysis showed that readership of local newspapers was significantly and positively associated with age, suggesting that older adults read local newspapers significantly more than younger adults.

This finding is consistent with those of the NNA surveys in 2010 and 2011, and those reported by the Pew Research Center in 2012.

The pass-along rate in the 2012 survey was 2.18 people, compared to 2.33 in 2011. This means that for every purchased community newspaper, 2.18 people read it. For example, I can safely estimate that our daily readership family exceeds 20,000.

On average, readers of the 2012 survey spent just shy of 40 minutes reading the local newspaper, up nearly one minute from 2011 and more than two minutes from 2011.

Following are additional key findings of the 2012 readership survey:

• 75 percent read all or most of the newspaper, compared to 73 percent in 2011.

• 43.8 percent keep their paper for more than 10 days.

• 77.4 percent read the paper for local news and information.

Respondents who had children were also asked whether those children – between the ages of 11 and 21 – would read local newspapers. Of the households where there were children in the age group, only 18 percent read a local newspaper at least once a week. Capturing younger readers continues to be the biggest challenge for the printed newspaper.

Teens and young adults digest their information in kilobytes rather than minutes thanks to smartphones and social media. That’s why our website garners more than 70,000 unique users, over 200,000 hits and nearly a million page views every month!

Meanwhile, the study shows that folks turn to the print edition for public notices and legal advertisements. For instance, 51 percent often read public notices. This number is actually up from previous years: 46 percent in 2011, 48 percent in 2010 and 40 percent in 2009.

When asked, “Do you think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers?” 78 percent said, “yes,” which is consistent with past survey results.

Local news content is important, the study showed. More than half of readers (56 percent) had either clipped a story from the print newspaper or provided a link from the newspaper’s website to save or send to a friend or family member in the past 12 months.

The majority of local readers continued to regard community newspapers as highly valuable and important sources of information about their communities.

Moreover, when asked about their preference for the source of information about local communities, 53 percent of residents preferred newspapers rather than TV and radio. In fact, the local newspaper was preferred 3 to 1 over TV, which is consistent with previous research.

In summary, this survey shows that newspapers like your Daily Mountain Eagle are considered credible and strong community partners. And I appreciate your business!

Jack McNeely is publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.