Net No Threat To Newspapers

Rather than compete for readership, newspapers have developed a collaborative relationship with the Web, according to a comprehensive survey by The Media Audit of 85 U.S. metro markets. The firm found that newspaper Web sites help to extend the reach of their print counterparts, minimizing rivalry between the two versions.

Robert Jordan, co-chairman and co-founder of International Demographics, Inc., parent company of The Media Audit, explains that newspapers and their Web sites are really one media as opposed to two. “Newspaper Web sites are an extension of the newspaper and add audience to the reach of the printed edition. Also, newspaper Web sites are updated throughout the day, which improves a newspaper’s ability to complete with television news programs with up-to-the minute breaking news information.”

Even though The Media Audit found a decrease among the percentage of those who read the newspaper, the number of heavy users of the print medium increased. Radio exhibited the biggest decline during the measured period, but the results could indicate a shift from traditional radio to Internet broadcasts and satellite forms of the medium.

Media Usage Among the Heavies
Medium # of Heavy Users Percent
(7+ hours/week)
2001: 29,547,000
2002: 32,335,000
(60+ minutes/average day)
2001: 25,442,000
2002: 25,750,000
(300+ minutes/average day)
2001: 26,165,000
2002: 27,016,000
(180+ minutes/average day)
2001: 37,718,000
2002: 36,144,000
Source: The Media Audit

Jordan cites The Houston Chronicle as an example of a newspaper that has increased its reach through the Web. “…the Houston Chronicle reaches 45.0 percent of the adult population during an average week. If you add their Web site, to the reach of the printed edition and eliminate the duplication between the two and the net reach of the paper is 52.1 percent, which is a net gain of 7.1 percentage points of all adults in the Houston Consolidated SMSA.”

Jordan elaborates on how newspapers are reaching a difficult market through the Web version. “…34.5 percent [of young upscale adults, who are college-educated 21 to 34-year olds, in technical, professional, proprietor or managerial jobs] read the newspaper on an average weekday whereas 18.4 percent are logging onto the Chronicle’s Web site during an average week for a total net reach of 44.3 percent or a net gain of 10.3 percentage points…from a group that newspapers are having a hard time reaching.”

Similarly, Hitwise found a desirable demographic visiting the sites in the news and print media category – online magazines and newspapers that also have a hard copy print version – during December 2003. Typical visitors were 35 to 44-year old (25 percent) males (54 percent), who accessed the sites from home (66 percent), and had annual household incomes above $75,000 (42 percent).

Demographics of Heavy Media Users
Medium $50k+/Year College Degree
Internet 60.0% 50.4%
Newspaper 45.0% 38.9%
Radio 45.0% 28.4%
Television 32.4% 20.8%
Source: The Media Audit

Most Visited Print News and Media Sites,
December 2003, U.S.
Site Market Share
New York Times on the Web 6.50%
The Washington Post 3.45%
USA Today 3.32%
CNN Sports Illustrated 2.39%
Times of India 1.72% 1.58%
Star Tribune 1.07% 1.06%
SF Gate 0.98%
Atlanta Journal Constitution 0.95%
Source: Hitwise

Daily newspapers still rank higher than their Web counterparts for political news, according to a joint study from Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and Pew Internet & American Life Project. The report found that while 31 percent regularly get their candidate and campaign information from their daily newspaper, only 11 percent claimed that Web sites of news organizations, local newspapers and TV stations were their source. Another 17 percent said that they sometimes relied on the Web sites for political news.

The report revealed that the typical American who regularly read the daily newspaper for information on the political candidates and the campaign is a senior (45 percent), black (33 percent), college-educated (39 percent) male (33 percent), with an annual family income above $75,000 (41 percent). The average newspaper reader, according to the Pew study, identifies as a Democrat (37 percent) and is a registered voter (35 percent).

Those who regularly glean their information on the political candidates and the campaign from news or newspaper-related Web sites are also educated and higher-incomed minorities, but they are at the other end of the age spectrum at less than 30 years old.

Where print newspapers may be losing readers, according to research, is in the classified pages. Borrell Associates estimates that for every recruitment dollar newspapers will earn online in 2004, they’ve lost roughly four in print. Similarly, while The Media Audit found that 40 percent of those who regularly read newspaper employment ads also regularly visit Web classified job sites, only 14.9 percent of those who regularly visit Web classified job sites also regularly read newspaper employment ads.

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