Case Study

The National Newspaper Association, headquartered in Columbia, MO, recently released the results of their fifth readership survey on the patterns of community newspaper readers. This report was completed by the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism and specifically looked at the reactions of people served by local newspapers.Since 2005, NNA has done research on how people read and what they think about their local newspapers. For this most recent survey, readership for towns with newspapers that have circulations of 8,000 or less were sampled. The community size has not significantly affected outcomes. The surveys show that community newspapers have remained popular. In fact, seventy-three percent say they read a local newspaper at least once a week.

Readers also say they read most or all of their community newspapers (78 percent), and of those going online for local news, 55 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 26 percent for the website of a local TV station.

The early data indicate that the positive findings are consistent with the earlier surveys:

  • 73 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week.
  • Those readers, on average, share their paper with 3.34 persons.
  • They spend about 37.5 minutes reading their local newspapers.
  • 78 percent read most or all of their community newspapers.
  • 41 percent keep their community newspapers six or more days (shelf life).
  • 62 percent of readers read local news very often in their community newspapers.
  • 39 percent of those surveyed read local education (school) news very often in their newspapers.
  • 30 percent read local sports news very often in their newspapers.
  • 35 percent read editorials or letters to the editor very often in their newspapers.

Public notice

Even though state and local governments are debating the best way to transmit public notice, those readers surveyed said newspapers remain the best way to receive such notices:

  • 75 percent think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers, with 23 percent reading public notices very often in their newspapers.
  • 71 percent have Internet access in the home, but 66 percent never visit a website of a local government.
  • Of those with Internet access at home, 89 percent have broadband access.

The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 49.3 percent of respondents. The next best source runs a distant second: friends and relatives for 18 percent of respondents and TV, 16 percent. Readers are nearly seven times more likely to get their local news from their community newspapers than from the Internet (7.7 percent). Less than 6 percent say their primary local news source is radio.