Thursday, December 01, 2011

A different way to look at new community newspapers study

A new study from the Reynolds Institute and the National Newspaper Association is being framed as "readers in areas served by community newspapers continue to prefer the community newspaper as their sources of local news and advertising."

From the release:
The survey, in its sixth year, shows consistent trends.  

Readers prefer the printed copy to the online version, with 48 percent saying they never read the local news online. 
They prefer to receive advertising through the newspaper (51%) instead of on the Internet (11%). And only about a quarter of respondents said they had found local news through a mobile device in the past 30 days. Slightly more (38%) said they had received local shopping information by mobile device.  

They also have a strong preference for government accountability through newspaper public notice, with 80 percent saying the government should be required to publish notices in the newspaper.

Let me suggest a slightly different interpretation. If a quarter of your market said it was using a device to access your product -- in this case mobile -- would that be an "only" to you or a cause for management to start thinking strategically in that area?

If more than a third said they received local shopping information on a platform -- mobile -- and the suggestion was that perhaps not all of them are going to your site, would that be a cause for concern? Or are you willing to write off more than a third of your audience - a segment likely to grow? (Unfortunately, the release talks about a "trend," but provides no trend data or a link to the time series raw data files. You should also read the footnote to the study carefully because the methodology has changed a bit.)

Yes, it's clear community papers continue to have an important place in the media mix of consumers, but I don't think it's all unicorns and rainbows as the release might suggest with this quote:

"The survey shows a majority of respondents believe that the newspaper does a better job of providing background and depth on stories essential to citizens,” Anfinson said. “Further, the newspaper is more useful to them personally than any other news source. It not only highlights the strong bond between local communities and their newspapers, but demonstrates that people do value good journalism."

If I'm running a business, I'm not willing to give up a quarter or a third of my market, yet I've sat in many a meeting in recent years where community publishers defiantly act as though digital is the enemy or, if they have digital assets, seem largely clueless about them. Bad move.

(Also published on the Community Journalism Interest Group blog.)

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