Newspaper readers still prefer print

By Pamela Mardle, Wednesday 14 August 2013

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More than 96% of newspapers are still read in their physical form rather than online, but decline is inevitable, a study from City University has reported.

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The study, which examined reading patterns of 12 national newspapers’ between 2007 and 2011, found that at least 96.7% of newspaper reading was physical rather than on-screen. 

In 2011, the newspapers studied had an average domestic daily readership per print copy of 2.1m compared to a maximum of 709,559 online.

The five quality/broadsheet newspapers studied were seen to have fared best in online popularity based on annual minutes spent reading and the number of usage sessions per day for each medium.

Non-charging websites of The Independent, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph were the most popular - up to 7% of the titles' total annual reading minutes. Of those that had established a paywall, the Financial Times got around 4.1% of their total annual reading minutes online, while website reading accounted for only 0.8% of access to The Times.

During the study Mail Online accounted for 6.8% of Associated Newspapers’ readership, while parent company DMGT has since reported that revenues from its online channel grew by 61% over the first half of 2013.

Popular/tabloid publications were least successful in their online transition, with titles such as The Sun, which has recently launched a cross-media campaign, gaining a maximum of 1.2% of their total readership at the time from their website. 

Author Dr Neil Thurman, from City University’s Department of Journalism, said that the study was "relevant not just to publishers themselves, but also to advertisers who have an increasing variety of ways to communicate with their customers".

He estimated that, despite there being very little data available, apps contributed up to a quarter of online reading time. Even with apps factored in, he concluded that more than 90% of newspaper reading time still comes from print.

"Unfortunately, for most newspapers, such a boost from mobile platforms has not countered losses in reading time due to falling print circulations.

"[But] newspaper brands are still overwhelmingly reliant on their print products for audience attention and revenue.

"The fading fortunes of those print products means that it is going to be increasingly common, as with Newsweek, for a "tipping point" to be reached where it becomes more "efficient" to reach readers in all-digital format," he added.


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