In Canada, we know that eight in 10 Canadians read a newspaper every week, over half each weekday. Why? What makes someone choose a newspaper and a particular newspaper?

News is everywhere, media choices abound. In order to continue to satisfy audiences, we need to understand what they are looking for from newspapers and why they continue to allocate their precious time to reading them.

A number of newspapers are going beyond counting audiences to investigate why newspaper readership remains strong in the face of declining revenue from advertisers. Some information is available in the NADbank Study, but we need to learn more, to ask the hard questions, and take the steps to better understand how newspapers satisfy audiences and thus advertisers.

We hear it all the time: “Yes, newspapers continue to attract readers, but we can get those audiences elsewhere.” Newspapers need to be able to counter that argument with, “Ah, but the environment and engagement of our readers provide you with an audience that will be more responsive to advertising because of the nature and quality of the media experience.”

Canadians value their newspapers; they find them to present credible and comprehensive information. Television is, and always has been, the principle challenger for older adults’ attention and now we see the challenger for the youth audiences: the Internet.

Toronto adults rank daily newspapers the most credible and most comprehensive media source. Not surprisingly, younger Canadians rank the Internet higher than daily newspapers for most comprehensive medium. And I expect when these people are referring to newspapers, they mean printed newspapers and consider digital editions part of the amorphous Internet.

Ranking the media

At the same time, people tell us that for different types of news, daily newspapers are not always the primary source for Canadians. With a plethora of choices, newspapers must understand what brings readers to their printed pages and digital editions.

While a particular medium or brand is respected and loved, it is not always “on” or available at the critical moment when information or entertainment is wanted. Television continues to be the primary source for adults looking to get international and national news (49%), as well as economic and business news (43%). Newspapers are the second choice at 23% and 30%, respectively.

The Internet is playing a growing role (for all media companies), but TV stands out and is a reminder that, as an industry, we need to construct research to provide information that enables us to promote the industry as it changes from a single distribution medium to a cross-platform, content media brand.

In local and community news, a key strength for local newspapers (and here we are reflecting all newspapers in Toronto — local, national, and regional), 29% say community newspapers are their primary source , 20% daily newspapers, and 32% TV. Internet does not appear to be a source for local news; only 8% seek it online.

When readers tell us what they value in their daily newspaper, the first thing they say is that it “keeps me informed.” Secondly, the layout of newspapers makes it easy to find what they are looking for. The latter attribute likely relates to printed editions.

Although lower on the list, newspapers’ opinions, analysis, and ability to stimulate discussion are key assets to promote. All are linked to why newspapers are seen as the most credible and comprehensive media sources.

What do readers like about their newspaper?

(Note: percentage of Toronto adults 18+ who ranked the attribute in the top 30% of a 10-point scale.)

And what about advertising in daily newspapers? The general belief is that advertising in newspapers is more effective than in other media, and that readers are as interested in the advertising as the editorial. Sixty-three percent of adults in Toronto, when asked about the attention they pay to ads, said they pay attention to ads on TV, while 49% said newspaper ads and 42% said Internet ads.

The important issue, though, is that readers take action after seeing an ad. Not everyone is in the market for every advertised product every day, of course, so we cannot “over-expect.” But the chart below shows that 50% of adults in Toronto took some action in the past month, after seeing an ad in their newspaper, 70% in the past year.

It would seem that ads in newspapers are useful to readers! Advertisements motivate readers to seek out products, visit retailers, and purchase items.

Action taken seeing an ad in a daily newspaper


There is a great more to learn about why Canadians choose to read daily newspapers. Learning more about what readers want and like will help newspapers sell those audiences to advertisers.

We are starting to ask these questions, but the other media are further ahead with this research. We have the readers now; we need to understand how to capitalise on them — whether they are print readers, digital readers, or both.