Case Study: Newspaper Thriving in Tallahassee

By: Heidi Kulicke

Case Study: Newspaper Thriving in Tallahassee

It might be winter, but it’s not all doom and gloom out there. Bright spots can be found — if you know where to look.

One Florida paper is experiencing a sunny outlook in more ways than the weather. Meet Bob Gabordi, executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat. His newspaper has a bright future despite challenges the industry continues to face as a whole. In his mind, print is far from dead; his newspaper is growing its readership and doing quite well.

“For much of the past few years, all we read about is the demise of the news business. Strangers ask where I work. I say the newspaper and they put their head down and apologize for asking, like they just found out your favorite pet died,” Gabordi wrote in a column.

Just how well is the Tallahassee Democrat doing? Gabordi cited new research conducted by parent Gannett Co. that shows print readership in Leon County is growing, and that 12,000 more people read the Sunday Democrat now than in 2006.

On top of that, the growth on Sunday was matched during the week over the last six months.

The study was conducted over a 12- month period by an outside research group. More than 1,200 people were interviewed from October 2010 to September 2011.

The paper’s website, Tallahassee.com, is behind a paywall but remains the largest news site in the market among both free and charging sites. Gabordi said the paywall launched July 1, 2010 amid backlash, but has firmly held its ground.

Gabordi wants his readers to know the newspaper is alive and well. “The study also showed that 71 percent of adults read one of our products in a typical week, and they read us an average of 5.3 times a week. Frequency of use is up, too, from an average of 4.8 times,” he said.

According to the study, 43 percent of people 18 to 34 years old in Leon County read the paper in print in a typical week; on average reading the paper four times in a typical week. The number peaks to 67 percent when combined with digital. “People say young adults don’t read anymore. Not true,” Gabordi said. “About a third read a typical Sunday Democrat — up by 3 percentage points from 2006; and we’ve had growth of 2 percentage points in this hard-to-reach audience on Saturday.”

Good news for Gabordi, his team, and all of Tallahassee.

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2 thoughts on “Case Study: Newspaper Thriving in Tallahassee

  • February 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm
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    This is an interesting example showing that local newspapers’ content is desirable, and that people will pay for it if it isn’t available for free. The Democrat’s print audience is certainly helped by the winter visitors to their area. I’m guessing that the strong readership in the younger demographics are elevated by an offer to deliver the print version at a free/reduced cost for an online agreement. Many people find it easier to read their local news on their laptop/tablet/smartphone rather than a tabloid or broadsheet. They want and trust the content of the local newspaper, and will take advantage of free news if it is available.

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  • February 15, 2012 at 9:50 pm
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    If anyone that has lived in Tally for over 15 years believes that the Tallahassee Democrat doesn’t suck they have a screw loose.

    Reply

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