News Biz: Readers get local news from community papers


By Greg Morris

HSPA membership is primarily made up of community newspapers.

Unlike struggling newspapers in larger markets, generally the community newspaper continues to grow and prosper despite continued economic strains.

A November 2011 NNA survey offers a glimpse of why community newspapers are experiencing success. The following information is from the National Newspaper Association.

Readers in areas served by community newspapers continue to prefer the community newspaper as their sources of local news and advertising.

The results of the most recent annual survey conducted by the National Newspaper Association and the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism show that 74 percent of people in communities served by a newspaper with circulations under 15,000 read a local newspaper each week.

The survey, in its sixth year, shows consistent trends.

Readers prefer the printed copy to the online version, with 48 percent saying they never read the local news online.

They prefer to receive advertising through the newspaper (51 percent) instead of on the Internet (11 percent).

And only about a quarter of respondents said they had found local news through a mobile device in the past 30 days.

Slightly more (38 percent) said they had received local shopping information by mobile device.

They also have a strong preference for government accountability through newspaper public notice, with 80 percent saying the government should be required to publish notices in the newspaper.

NNA President Reed Anfinson, publisher of the Swift County Monitor-News in Benson, M.N., said the study demonstrates that citizens believe in newspapers.

“The survey shows a majority of respondents believe that the newspaper does a better job of providing background and depth on stories essential to citizens,” Anfinson said. “Further, the newspaper is more useful to them personally than any other news source.

“It not only highlights the strong bond between local communities and their newspapers but demonstrates that people do value good journalism.”

Other findings from the survey:

• 74 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week.

• Those readers, on average, share their papers with 2.33 people.

• They spend about 38.95 minutes reading their local newspapers.

• 73 percent read most or all of their community newspapers.

• 43.8 percent keep their community newspapers six or more days (shelf life).

• 61 percent of readers read local news very often in their community newspapers, while 48 percent say they never read local news online (only 11 percent say they read local news very often online).

• Of those going online for local news (167 respondents), 52 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 20 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 25 percent for the website of a local television station.

• 33 percent of those surveyed read local education (school) news very often in their newspapers, while 68 percent never read local education news online.

• 27 percent read local sports news very often in their newspapers, while 70 percent never read local sports online.

• 40 percent read editorials or letters to the editor very often in their newspapers, while 64 percent never read editorials or letters to the editor online.

• 80 percent think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers, with 23 percent reading public notices very often in their newspapers.

• 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 51.8 percent of respondents compared to seeking information from friends and relatives (16 percent) and TV (13.2 percent.)

Readers are seven times more likely to get their news from their community newspapers than from the Internet (7.4 percent).

Fewer than 6 percent say their primary local news source is radio.

I’m convinced Warren Buffett’s got it right.

His recent newspaper acquisitions indicate he’s betting on the future success of community newspapers.

I think that’s a good bet.

Well, believe it or not, the year is half over already. I hope you enjoyed the July 4 holiday, and I wish everyone success in the second half of the year.

Let’s bring it home strong! See you next month.

Greg Morris, HSPA board of directors president, is presi­­dent of IBJ Media and publisher of Indianapolis Business Journal.