Data Shows Americans Increased Their Daily Time with Newspapers During the Pandemic

Posted

When the pandemic struck, news was as essential to the public as the most important household items they were panic-buying at stores or online. Although TV viewership increased, especially local channels, more Americans also reached for a newspaper in many markets.

An April 2020 Pew Research Center survey found 61 percent of respondents were accessing national and local news about the pandemic equally; however, 23 percent were more focused on local news, compared to 15 percent on national news. Half of all participants of a June 2020 Pew survey said local news sources reported the facts more accurately than all news media in general, or 44 percent.

By definition, a pandemic is global in scale, but many Americans relied on local news to provide community information of critical and personal importance. 

Local Coronavirus Topics Adults 18+ Were  Following “Very Closely” in Local News, April 2020

Local Topic

Percent

State/Local government actions

42%

Goods in local stores

38%

Status of nearby schools

30%

Status of nearby businesses

29%

Availability of testing

29%

Status of nearby hospitals

28%

Availability of unemployment/aid

25%

Source: Pew Research Center, April 2020

The importance of obtaining this information from local newspapers is clearly revealed in multiple 2020 market surveys conducted during the pandemic by The Media Audit, an international consumer research company.

The survey data revealed the time adults 18+ spent with newspapers daily increased at higher rates (sometimes much higher) compared to 2019—and much higher rates spent with radio and TV.

The averages for 15 selected markets was a 5-percent YOY decrease for daily minutes spent with radio, no change for TV and an 18-percent YOY increase for newspaper.

The two markets with the largest increases in daily time spent with newspapers were Nashville, Tenn. (+50 percent) and Dayton, Ohio (+38 percent). Even more compelling were the adults 18+ in Nashville who spent 5 percent less time listening to radio during 2020 than 2019, and 10 percent less time watching TV. In Dayton, daily radio minutes decreased 14 percent YOY, and TV daily minutes were unchanged.

Comparing data in seven of those 15 selected markets follow this same general pattern.

Average Daily Minutes Adults 18+ Spent with Media, 2020

Market

Radio

TV

Newspaper

2019

2020

Change

2019

2020

Change

2019

2020

Change

Nashville, Tenn.

148

142

-5%

118

106

-10%

70

105

+50%

Dayton, Ohio

154

133

-14%

276

275

0%

67

92

+38%

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

164

165

0%

234

238

+2%

99

126

+28%

Denver, Colo.

156

142

-9%

222

238

+7%

86

106

+24%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

144

135

-6%

105

118

+12%

61

73

+19%

Little Rock, Ark.

160

149

-7%

280

263

-6%

93

109

+17%

Detroit, Mich.

155

137

-11%

258

265

+3%

90

94

+5%

Source: The Media Audit’s 2020 consumer surveys

As indicated in the table, Detroit, Mich. was the other market with a double-digit decrease in daily minutes spent with radio (-11 percent). Other than Nashville, Little Rock, Ark. was the only market with decreases in daily radio time (-7 percent) and daily TV time (-6 percent) and a double-digit increase in newspaper time (+17 percent).

“Undoubtedly, the need for news about the pandemic, especially local statistics and local government guidelines and restrictions, was the primary driver of the increase in daily newspaper minutes in these markets,” said Nick Miller, vice president at The Media Audit. “Another factor, however, is the 70 percent of consumers responding to a Valassis survey saying they were more conscious of their household budgets during the pandemic, which likely increased the search for coupons in newspapers.”

The Valassis survey found more paper than digital coupons were distributed and redeemed during the pandemic and 71 percent of consumers said they had redeemed paper coupons. Surprisingly, 87 percent of millennials said they had used paper coupons, according to a summer 2020 survey.

Millennials’ use of paper coupons is reinforced with The Media Audit data for daily minutes spent with radio, TV and newspaper. In fact, in four of these markets, adults 18–34 increased their daily minutes with newspaper YOY by at least 33 percent and in two markets, the increases exceeded 65 percent.

Average Daily Minutes Adults 18–34 Spent with Media, 2020

Market

Radio

TV

Newspaper

2019

2020

Change

2019

2020

Change

2019

2020

Change

Nashville, Tenn.

149

162

+9%

226

226

0%

86

143

+68%

Dayton, Ohio

166

145

-13%

277

247

-11%

101

143

+42%

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

183

197

+8%

201

235

+17%

149

152

+2%

Denver, Colo.

163

163

0%

204

237

+16%

103

145

+42%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

143

136

-6%

215

242

+12%

67

111

+66%

Little Rock, Ark.

182

186

+2%

222

260

+17%

118

157

33%

Detroit, Mich.

172

160

-7%

222

232

+4%

106

141

+33%

Source: The Media Audit’s 2020 consumer surveys

“It’s difficult to know if these increases in average daily minutes among adults 18+ and adults 18–34 will continue after the pandemic,” said Miller. “Nonetheless, more young adults have been exposed to newspapers, and likely many for the first time, motivating some portion to include newspapers in their future daily media mix.”

During his 46 years in marketing and advertising, Bob Sillick has held many senior positions and served a myriad of clients. Since 2010, he has been a freelance/contract content researcher and writer. He can be reached at bobsillick@gmail.com.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment