Newspaper reading habits have changed in the past few years. No one would argue that point.
But it is often human nature to exaggerate the pace and degree of change. That, of course, is good if you need the push to re-invent yourself but less helpful if you are the one who has to manage the transition.
- Newspapers continue to be an important part of people’s lives. They are considered the most credible and comprehensive media source available. Interestingly, this rank order holds true for 18- to 34-year-olds; but for older adults, TV is tied with newspapers for both credibility and comprehensiveness.
- Flowing out of this is that (in Canada) nearly eight in 10 adults read a daily newspaper every week, 50% each day. I sound like a broken record; I have published these numbers many times in the past. Yes, readership is changing. In today’s fragmented media landscape, newspapers have done well to keep pace with the changes in media behaviour.
Sadly, I had a call from a journalist last week after the release of our most recent study, and he challenged the numbers as not being believable.
We hear about the death of traditional print media and the belief that everyone has moved to the Internet for all their information, entertainment, product information, and to buy goods and services.
But, in reality, the conversion is not that extreme. People adapt and capitalise on new and exciting ways of doing things, but it is always in order to make life easier for them. If it is not easy to make a change and the benefit real, habits take over.
Where am I going with this?
NADbank released its new, more granular digital readership data in March of this year and updated nine markets last month. We introduced new questions about digital readership: do you read the PDF/replica edition, at the Web site and/or an app.
Digital readership is growing, and we need to have a good understanding not just about the growth of readership online, but where and how it is changing and impacting overall readership.
- Evolution not revolution. Weekly readership online has grown from 10% in 2001 to 31%; daily readership is now just over 17%.
- Each week, nine million Canadians “only read” a printed newspaper. Of the 20 million adults covered in the survey, 15 million (77%) read a newspaper each week; nearly 60% are print-only readers. This compares to 70% five years ago.
- The greatest shift has come from adults who read both digital and printed newspapers – because they can – from 24% to 34% of all readers. There is no doubt many people are moving their readership to online formats.
But we often forget the large number of print-only readers. Reading only-online has grown from 6% to 9% of all readers in the past five years.
- Nearly 80% of all online readers read a printed newspaper each week. Newspapers are no longer something to read once a day. They are an “always on” news source that can be accessed throughout the day – and people do!
- Printed newspapers are more popular with older, more educated, and affluent Canadians — and therefore are an ideal environment for advertisers. Still, young adults do read printed newspapers; the free dailies have successfully captured that market.
But let’s keep in mind that adults 18 to 34 represent about 30% of the adult population and generally have less money to spend than the more established 35+ readers. On the average Monday to Friday, both print and digital readership contribute to total daily reach. Younger adults are more likely to read online than older adults.
- Tablets and all mobile devices are changing how news is consumed online. Before tablets there were smartphones and computers. Way back in 2010 when tablets were just being introduced, 80% of online newspaper readership was done at a computer; in two years that number has dropped to 52%.
- Mobile-only access has grown from 2% for all adults who read online to 28%. For 18- to 34-year-olds from 3% to 34%.
Newspapers offer readers choices regarding where to get their content on the Internet. A small number of readers access the PDF/replica copy (2%), most access the Web site directly (12%) and app readership is still relatively low (4%).
For readers, the value is the choice. While most continue to turn to printed newspapers, they alternate between print and digital during the week. They do what is convenient and easy at the moment they want their news. Consumers expect instant gratification and easy to access, and all media outlets will have to respond to them.
- Each platform serves a need. Print is for leisure and mobile is for snacking. Designing content and advertising must reflect this behaviour.
Readers spend about 45 minutes a day reading printed newspapers, 40 minutes at their computer, and 45 minutes on mobile devices. However, they are accessing mobile throughout the day rather than once a day for print.
Keeping pace with and engaging consumers is no easy feat. And while change is inevitable, evolution is a more accurate description of the pace of change than revolution.
Increasingly, readers are accessing their newsbrands on the computer or using tablets and smartphones, but many still love their printed newspapers and the experience they offer.