By: Joe Strupp

But Papers Need To Woo More Women, Younger Readers

Despite growing competition from cable television and the Internet, newspapers remain a regular staple of most people’s lives, according to a new Editor & Publisher/TIPP poll. It reveals more than half of all adults read a newspaper at least five days per week.

Moreover, the poll of 1,956 adults conducted two weeks ago shows that those regular readers are far more likely to vote than others, and they still rely on newspapers – not network or cable TV programs – for most of their presidential campaign news.

But while the survey offers a positive outlook for overall newspaper readership, it also shows that a disproportionate number of regular newspaper readers are over 45, with the most fervent at 65 or older, indicating more work is needed to draw Generations X and Y. “Newspapers are becoming more challenged to get that younger reader,” said Raghavan Mayur, TIPP president, who conducted the poll for E&P.

The survey’s key readership finding shows that more than half of those responding, 53%, said they read a newspaper between five and seven days per week. With the U.S. Census estimating the current adult population at 205 million, that equates to 108.6 million people who regularly read newspapers.

“It reinforces the trend that, as other media proliferate, newspapers hold steady,” said Cindy Butner, research director for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Newspapers still have strong reach and can be an anchor among other media that are growing.”

More than 40% of all adults read a newspaper seven days a week, the poll found. “I don’t think it is a surprise because you really don’t get much news from other media,” said John Morton, a veteran newspaper analyst based in Maryland. “Television news has really become a headline service – it’s talk, talk, talk, and personalities.”

The poll also revealed that 37% read a newspaper between one and four days per week. That means that fully 90% of all adults are newspaper readers. Among the regular readers, 60% are 45 years of age or older, much higher than their share of the general population. Retirees, in fact, make up 23% of regular newspaper readers, while they comprise just 16% of the general population, according to the poll.

In addition, the survey found that there are more men among regular readers (52%) in contrast to their census numbers (49%). “The most startling thing here is the gender gap,” said Mayur. “It may be, perhaps, because women still don’t have careers as much as men, and are home more with access to other media.”

Those who read a newspaper five or more days a week tend to be bigger investors than the general population, with 58% logging investments of $10,000 or more. They are more likely to be married, and these regular readers often have college degrees or better (49% vs. 43% of the overall sample). The Northeast has the highest proportion of steady readers, with the Midwest in second place.

On the political side, there are more Democrats (34%) than Republicans (27%) among these regular readers – but even more call themselves Independents or “other” (35%). A large share consider themselves politically conservative (40%) or moderate (41%), with liberals (17%) trailing.

But while the overall readership trend is good for newspapers, a review of younger readership indicates a downward slope, according to the polling data. For example, while 30% of the adult population, according to the poll numbers, is between 18 and 34, only 20% of regular newspaper readers fall between those ages. Observers say newspapers can pick up that percentage by focusing more on younger readers.

“We can always do better,” said James Conaghan, vice president of marketing and business for the Newspaper Association of America. “There are more consistent promotional efforts newspapers can do in their own markets and with local trends.”

Morton, the analyst, agreed, suggesting that “newspapers may be leaning too much on demographics of readership and less on what a newspaper offers. They could spend more time promoting what is in the paper, what it is that draws people.”

Jim Wilson, director of advertising services for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said newspapers need to draw younger readers into the paper with specific sections targeting areas of interest on certain week days. “We can point them to a Wednesday technology section or a Monday business section that is dedicated to growth and development,” he said. “Newspapers as a seven-day medium are changing.”

Joe Strupp ( is an associate editor for E&P.

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