According to a new poll, just over half of the U.S. newspaper audience still reads their local newspaper in print only, with no overlapping digital consumption. That’s according to a new survey of 150 U.S. media markets conducted for the Newspaper Association of America. Just four percent read their newspaper in print and mobile, eschewing other online consumption. Given all these numbers, it’s easy to deduce that the digital-only newspaper audience (including people who avoid print and only read newspapers online, via mobile devices, or both) actually remains fairly small.
Indeed, just seven percent of those surveyed said they read their local newspaper only online, while just three percent read it with a mobile device, and a mere five percent read it both online and with a mobile device. That’s 15 percent of the local newspaper audience using only digital channels.
The poll is further evidence that, when it comes to good newspapers offering credible, unique community news content and opinion, as Mark Twain once said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
To the extent that there has been a palpable decline in the revenues enjoyed by newspapers in the face of competition from the Internet, 24-hour news cable channels and other mass outlets of information, it has been, to an extent at least, a self-fulfilling prophecy missing important facts. That is, when everybody says newspapers are dying, then everybody responds accordingly, taking their advertising dollars elsewhere in pursuit of the latest flashy path to riches.
But as keener observers have been noting for some time now, the Internet is a relative chimera when it comes to effective advertising. Cluttering up the Internet with an ad presence that seems more like driving through the relentless billboard jungle at Breezewood, marketing and media buying experts are seeing diminishing returns. Impatient Internet surfers have found ways to bypass all the clutter, and the bang for the buck has tailed off accordingly.
The overkill on the untamed Internet is leading many among a literate public back to more stable and credible sources of meaningful news content, becoming recognized again as the best place to grab a good portion of sustained attention.
The demise of AOL’s “hyper-local news” Patch online operation is a testament to this. Patch was designed to win the public’s attention by focusing on local news that couldn’t be found on CNN. It looked good on paper, or, more exactly, in paperless format. But the eyeballs weren’t there to persuade advertisers to commit big bucks. That operation failed to grasp that “content is king,” that you can’t fool local folks with hit-and-miss local news so thin that it is plainly a mere vehicle for raising ad revenue.
A week into our 24th year of consecutive weekly publication, we at the mighty Falls Church News-Press are still here, more than happy to welcome readers and advertisers whose experiences with the Internet have been fleeting and unrewarding.