They gave local news away for free. Virtually nobody wanted it.


When 2,529 people were offered a free subscription to their local newspapers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer, only 44 accepted — less than 2 percent — according to an academic study set to be published this year in the American Journal of Political Science. 

Dan Hopkins, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted the study, titled “Unsubscribed and Undemanding,” in 2021. The purpose of the research, Hopkins said, was to assess practical ways to increase interest in local or regional news for an audience that seems more interested in national, partisan media outlets. (The pool of those offered subscriptions was made up of locals who had previously responded to political surveys.) Hopkins said that he was “surprised and dismayed” when he realized that only 1.7 percent had accepted the free subscription. 

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