Statistics Tell a Bright Story


By Pete Van Baalen

I’ve always found statistics to be fascinating, which is probably an outgrowth of my love of baseball. Baseball is a sport that is nearly obsessed with stats, from batting averages to consecutive games played total number of home runs hit.

When the stats were in their favor, the newspaper industry used to have a similar fascination with statistics and numbers. As the media landscape has changed and the swagger has faded, the industry relies less on those raw numbers than in the past. But a recent study from the AP NORC Center and American Press Institute sheds some positive light on the industry that can quickly be used in the marketplace.

The study found that most Americans in fact pay for their news. In fact, 53% responded affirmatively to the question of paying for news in the survey. Of those that responded, 54% currently subscribe to a newspaper, either print or digital. This is information that is good for both the circulation and the advertising departments of a newspaper.

The advertising department needs positive information about the industry when talking to perspective customers. As an industry, we’ve run too many articles about our own demise and our customers have picked up on that. Plus our competitors are also out there telling the world of our eminent failure as a business, casting doubt in our customer’s heads.

In a world where social media and digital are dominating marketing budgets, the reliable newspaper still has an important role to play. And that role is not just for older readers, either.

The desire for reliable and paid for content is strong across all demographics. The older the person, the more likely their subscription is to a print product but the habit of reading newspaper content runs throughout the ages of 18 to 65 and beyond.

For circulation departments, this is good news because of some other key takeaways from the study. Only 10% of those surveyed felt their subscription cost was too high for what they were getting. I don’t view this as open season wildly high hikes in pricing but if you were concerned about whether you can raise prices or not it adds more to the discussion. You probably can charge a little more.

Newspapers will never likely every again enjoy the domination of a by-gone era of amazingly high market penetrations. That has, and will continue to change the strategy we as an industry have to employ. But relevance has not diminished nearly as much as we’ve reported and this is just one more survey that proves that point.

You can find full details of the study by visiting:


Pete VanBaalen, general manager for Fort Wayne Newspapers, is a member of the HSPA board of directors and the Indiana Newspaper Advertising Executives Association.