In mid-March, NADbank released the 2009 readership results for Canadian newspapers — and to the surprise of many, readership was stable across the country. Print readership didn’t need the addition of the online audience to bolster the story — but bolster the story it did. When you add the online audience, the reach of newspaper-generated content is quite impressive.
According to the 2009 study, 73% of Canadian adults read a printed newspaper each week, 22% read a newspaper online with the total weekly reach just under 80%, or roughly 14.7 million readers users on a weekly bases in Canada. That’s an impressive reach.
The reach was evenly spread by both market size and geographically. When we look at the top 15 markets in Canada, the weekly print reach is in the range of 70% across the board, with leading markets in the 80% range. Online reach pushes many of these markets well into the 80s.
Free distribution newspapers in Canada have had an impact on the marketplace as well. The level of newspaper readership is significantly higher in the cities where a transit newspaper is available than in markets without such a publication. Their market penetration ranges from a low of 20% to a high of 37%, which is impressive for a channel that is less than 10 years old in this country. In Toronto, Metro with 486,000 readers is the second-most read newspaper in the city on a weekday, behind only the Toronto Star’s 979,000 readers. It’s clear that free distribution newspapers in Canada are here to stay.
Newspaper demographics also remain a core strength. About half of managers and professionals read a daily newspaper yesterday, while the reach into households with incomes over C$100,000 also represented roughly 50% penetration. Newspaper readers, both print and online continue to be affluent and well educated — a nice audience to offer to our advertising partners.
It’s also interesting to see time spent relatively stable in recent years. In 2005, NADbank recorded readers spending 239 minutes weekly with the newspaper. In the most recent study, it was recorded at 240 minutes. Weekly online time on a newspaper’s website seems to have stabilized at roughly 120 minutes.
Not surprisingly, local content remains the core strength of daily newspapers in Canada. More than 90% of readers report accessing local content on a regular basis. As you would expect, provincial, national and world news are also popular with readers.
So what does all this mean for newspapers in this time of media turmoil?
- First, it’s clear readers/users still value newspapers for the content they produce.
In summary, there does not appear to be an audience cliff anywhere in our immediate future. Audiences still see value in the content we produce, but are choosing to consume it in multiple formats — many of which they are not willing to pay for. It’s quite possible that the content itself carries little value for consumers, but they may be willing to pay for the experience they have with media. Print newspapers offer an escape, 30 minutes a day over breakfast to catch up on world events, last night’s sporting event and to better understand your city. That’s worth paying for. It’s quite possible some of the newer portable devices may very well offer up revenue opportunities, but it won’t be for the content alone. It will need to offer value and a unique experience.
This NADbank release offers hope and encouragement as we attempt to revitalize our industry. Our future is clearly uncertain, but not nearly as bleak as some predict. It’s true the path forward is somewhat fuzzy, but the opportunities available to us are enormous. It’s a great time to be in newspapers.