Wick Communications

Who’s reading the newspaper?

In Media on 14 Jun 2013 at 8:51 am

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This week, AdAge, reporting on numbers crunched by Scarborough Research, pointed to some curious trends in our business. It reported that newspaper readership was generally stronger in the Northeast and Midwest rust belt towns and that it was less robust along the sunbelt.

To which I say, “Huh. You don’t say?”

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. I can think of a couple possible conclusions. Perhaps residents in towns like Pittsburgh and Toledo and Cleveland maintained their loyalty for their local paper because they are more likely to have deeper roots than residents in places like Las Vegas and Atlanta. Having lived in Atlanta, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Pittsburgh residents are more interested in the civics of their town. Maybe it has something to do with the age or wealth or education of residents in the respective communities. Perhaps those papers that maintain readership are more in tune with a more homogenous populace. Or maybe, as executives at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggest, the numbers don’t reflect growing digital reach.

Are those Midwestern newspapers just better?

It’s an intriguing question. Rather than dismissing the notion, we might do well do look at what they do well. As I say, those communities at the top of the list are long-established with residents who are proud of their roots. Don’t think so? Go to an NFL game in Cleveland some time. Perhaps the newspapers at the top of this list do a better job of catering to that fervor. Newspapers should reflect their communities; mere technical capability is not enough. …

These industry surveys are often interesting. A previous Scarborough Research study noted that “readership” wasn’t declining at the same rate as “circulation.” Because publishers were more sophisticated in cutting costs for circulation that didn’t pay off, they had actually increased the number of readers per copy of the newspaper printed. (In 2010, the firm reported that 3.3 people saw each copy of the newspaper, which was up 7.5 percent from 2007.)

Food for thought.




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