Autumn’s chill not affecting Canada’s newspapers


Autumn blows in with cooler temperatures, bringing a sense of “back to work” and the routine. In Canada, it also brings the latest readership data for daily newspapers.

Earlier this month, NADbank released its most recent readership results for 36 newspapers in nine markets. A number of these are multi-market newspapers with varying degrees of content differentiation for the market(s) where they are distributed.

Canada continues to be a lively newspaper marketplace with many and varied newspapers. Only two, however, can be considered “national.” These are paid dailies available in all markets across the country and are edited with a national and international eye. They also offer some local content and perspective in selected major markets.

The other dailies are a mix of free and paid, local and regional newspapers. Some publish similar content across all markets, peppered with local news relevant to the primary community they serve. As well, there continue to be newspapers that faithfully direct, and serve, their content to their local audiences.

The number of daily newspapers has increased in Canada in the past 10 years. The arrival of the free dailies bolstered readership, particularly among younger adults. In all of the one million-plus markets, there are a minimum of four dailies published every weekday. There are six in Toronto and eight in Montreal. Five are in French and three in English.

Nearly eight in 10 adults read a newspaper in print or online every week. The results confirm that Canadians continue to look to newspapers as a vital source for news and entertainment. As in many countries, readership of printed editions is slowly decreasing, which is why newspapers are constantly making themselves available and useful to readers in new ways.

The recent results show that, over the past 10 years, print readership for the major markets has declined anywhere from 5% to 10% on the average weekday, depending on the market. However, total readership remains stable, with newspapers being read by more than 50% of adults every weekday.

Newspapers continue to offer value for everyone, with readership of both print and online editions differing by age and lifestyle. For example, the following chart shows young adults read less frequently than adults with high incomes and managers and professionals.

Buyers generally judge newspapers based on their weekday print readership, but this should be a thing of the past. Readers do not care; they read newspapers as it suits them.

While print remains the dominant format, with 60% of weekly newspapers reading only a printed newspaper, the following table demonstrates that online readership is a valuable asset.

It is the migration between online and offline content that has allowed the newspapers to maintain their brand footprint and leadership position in the “information” marketplace. In all but Toronto, the most competitive media marketplace, readership remained unchanged from the last survey.

By developing popular and engaging Internet properties, local newspapers have been able to extend their brand’s reach. The digital content of a number of “originally” local newspapers is read across the country. Canadians move and take their newspapers with them.

The leading Toronto newspaper maintains 88% of its weekly Web site readership in its local market but gets 12% of its audience in the balance of the top six markets (those with a population of more than one million people). Corporate or hub Web sites offer headline and top news stories with access to local Web sites.

Change is in the air. Newspaper readership is changing because technology is changing — allowing people to alter their behaviour. This is true everywhere and has resulted in changes to newspapers all over the world.

In Canada, and many developed countries, the changes may appear to be subtle, a migration to provide news brands across new platforms. In many other countries, technological development has impacted newspapers in very different ways. In some countries, print products are growing exponentially, while in others news organisations are focusing more on mobile content.

Wherever media organisations conduct their business, it is about the news and content they provide their readers. The way readership is evolving — and it is different in every country and city — it is clear that newspapers are no longer single platform brands defined by their method of distribution.

Getting the balance right, and building new economic models, continues to be the greatest challenge facing the industry. Studies like those from NADbank continue to be rich resources for understanding how newspapers are read and who is reading them.

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