If you’re thinking one newspaper fits all, think again


As I sat down to think about this blog posting and what to say about newspapers, I struggled to find another overarching truth about our business.

Then I thought maybe I was going about it the wrong way. Perhaps it was time for a deeper dive.

In Canada, as we are always proud to boast, nearly every market is a multi-newspaper market.

In most urban markets there are four newspapers available, and the larger markets now have at least a few newspapers to choose from. Toronto, our largest market, has six newspapers and Montreal, the next largest (and a bilingual) market, has eight.

Media is a fragmented and niche business and so is the newspaper business in Canada.

What is the media landscape all about today? It’s always available, video predominates, and mobile is growing exponentially. And what then, about newspapers?

  • They continue to reach nearly eight in 10 Canadians every week with a predominantly non-video approach — but that’s changing.

  • They appeal to most Canadians in a printed format — but that’s changing.

  • They appeal to all age groups — some read more often than others.

  • They are always available on one or more platforms — and that’s growing!

While newspapers continue to appeal to a broad spectrum of the population, the medium has shifted, and many individual newspapers have adopted the “niche” approach by becoming what “their” readers want them to be. And that is a very good thing.

Newspaper readers generally have a higher net worth and spend more on consumables than the average consumer of other media.

Newspaper readers have a higher net worth compared to other media consumers; the value of their investments and savings is higher than those who consume other media on the average day.

They expect to spend more on their next real estate purchase, did spend more on major appliances, home accessories, and their most recently obtained vehicle.

There is no difference in spending, or it is higher, for all other categories NADbank tracks. Spending patterns vary by age and frequency of reading.

Heavy newspaper readers are more likely than less frequent readers, or other media consumers, to have a higher income, and spend more on a range of products and services.

The new free dailies have gained traction in Canada and tend to cater to a very different audience than either the broadsheets or the tabloids.

About 30% of adults use public transit each week and they are a unique subset of the population. They are young, often in the middle of their education, and live in rented accommodations.

They are, therefore, less likely to have home delivery of their newspaper and more likely to pick it up from a newsstand or box.

The profile of transit users matches that of free daily readers: young, mobile, and looking for entertainment? There’s a “newspaper” for that!

Younger newspaper readers do not have the highest net worth or spending patterns compared to other media users. They are, however, in their acquisitive years, and the tabloids and free dailies are chock full of ads from small businesses, of entry level cars, electronics, households goods, and classifieds.

Young and starting out in the world? There’s a “newspaper” for that!

Broadsheets continue to have the largest market share. Their average reader is older than for other newspapers and represents a broader spectrum of the population than the male-dominated tabloids and younger readers of the free dailies.

They tend not to use transit and do have their newspaper delivered to their door or office. These readers are the ones with higher net worth, some with big careers, and they grew up in the “consumer age,” based on the strong economy over the past 20 years.

Established, building your career or affluent? There are “newspapers” for that!

The population is getting older, and we boomers are really greying up the planet and taking up a great deal of space.

We need to pay attention to demographics! In Canada, the number of adults age 50 or older has grown by 43% in the past 10 years; 35- to 49-year-olds have had a modest growth of 10%, and the number of 18- to 34-year-olds is up 18%.

Boomers (50 and older) represent 40% of adult population; they still have good incomes and have lived lives as solid consumers.

Grown up and still spending? There’s a “newspaper” for that!

The 35- to 49-year-olds are in the busy, acquisitive years, and marketers covet them as customers; they represent only 29% of the adult population. Young adults, the darlings that get all the attention, have lower incomes, spend less, and represent 31% of the population.

What stage are you at? There’s a “newspaper” for that!

Digital — and mobile, specifically — is shaping the evolution of all media, particularly newspapers.

Younger adults like to read online and on their mobiles but tend to read the free dailies in printed format. Older adults still love their printed editions and cannot be ignored.

Printed editions will remain important for those who want them, and digital and mobile options will grow in popularity with the younger readers and tech savvy boomers who migrate between platforms.

Mobile and tech savvy? Love the printed newspaper? There are “newspapers” for that!

So, while it is true that newspapers provide their readers with current, always available, curated news and information, they are many things to many different readers. We should think about “making the shoe fit” rather than “one size fits all.”

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