Twice a year, Nielsen Scarborough publishes a report on U.S. newspaper audiences. Drawing upon our most current local-market survey data, we show audience estimates for nearly 200 printed newspapers and their Web sites. We call it the “Newspaper Penetration Report (NPR),” and we just released our first report for 2017.

Looking at the numbers, I am once again struck by the resilience of the newspaper media audience, and of the strength of the print audience in particular. Despite years of circulation and print readership declines, news media still demonstrate commanding penetration of their local markets.

Many news media readers only read a printed version of a newspaper.
Many news media readers only read a printed version of a newspaper.

To be included in the NPR, newspapers must meet the following criteria:

  1. Paid newspapers must have both daily and Sunday editions.
  2. There must be at least 100 survey respondents who told us they read the daily edition and at least 100 respondents who said they read the Sunday edition.
  3. The newspaper must have at least 4% penetration of the given geography for both the daily and Sunday editions.

While the report includes three separate geographies, I focused on the Core-Based Statistical Area (CBSA). This is a geography defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and includes urbanised areas with populations of 50,000 or more. In addition to having a comparable geography for analysis purposes, I chose the CBSA because, in many cases, it is the closest approximation of the news media company’s core market.

Among the nearly 170 news media companies we report at the CBSA level, 37 (or about 22%) have weekly penetration of more than 50%. That means that each week, these companies reach at least half of the total adult populations in their markets with their print editions, e-editions, and Web sites. (This is based on the net audience of five weekday print and e-editions, one Sunday print and e-edition, and the past seven-day Web site audience.)

The news media company with the highest penetration reaches a remarkable 68% of all adults in its market during an average week.

Another 46 news media companies have weekly penetration of 40% or better. So, just about half (49%) of the newspapers we report at the CBSA level reach 40% or more of all the adults in their markets in an average week.

Think about that in relation to the reach of the average local television or radio station. And these numbers do not include the additional reach provided by mobile, apps, or other related channels.

If we take the Web site audience out and look at just the print and e-edition audience, the resilience of this audience becomes apparent. Among the nearly 170 newspapers we report at the CBSA level, 34 (or 20%) have weekly penetration of more than 40% with just their print and e-editions. (This is based on the net audience of five weekday print and e-editions, and one Sunday print and e-edition.)

The newspaper with the highest penetration reaches 53% of all adults in its market during an average week. I chose to include the e-editions with the print editions because, for the most part, the e-editions are electronic facsimiles of the printed newspaper.

Studies by Nielsen Scarborough and others show about half of newspaper readers consume newspapers only in their printed form. According to Nielsen Scarborough’s most current national database, among the U.S. adult audience that is consuming newspaper media across platforms (print, e-edition, Web site, and mobile), nearly half (48%) consume that content exclusively in print.

Historically, printed newspapers have always reached large, upscale audiences, and that is still true today. While the print audience tends to be older, print readers are more likely to be college-educated and live in households with annual incomes of US$100K or more. That makes them valuable for a variety of advertisers.

Despite years of circulation and readership declines, local news media companies still provide the large, engaged, upscale audiences — in print and online — that advertisers covet. Their market penetration is typically stronger than most local media. And, the research continues to prove the resilience of news media — and print, in particular.