Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our readers enjoy a lot of company

The following was originally published in The Record.

Whether you read The Record online or in print, you have a lot of company.

While headlines about declining circulation and falling revenues in the newspaper industry might suggest this isn’t our industry’s golden age, the reality is much better than one might be led to believe.

Roughly three-quarters (74%) of U.S. adults – nearly 171 million people – read a newspaper online or in print during the past week, according to a recently-released survey from Scarborough Research, an audience ratings measurement company. When you filter the data for economic and education variables – attention newspaper advertisers – the results are even better. Some 82 percent of adults with household incomes over $100,000 read newspapers each week, as do 84 percent of college graduates.

So if so many people are reading newspapers, why are they reporting circulation is down? There are a variety of reasons: more people are reading online; fewer households are receiving two or more different newspapers in markets where there are (or there used to be) choice; pass-along rates (people or households sharing a paper) are higher; and more people are reading fewer days each week (late-week editions – Thursday through Sunday – seem to be more popular in some markets).

Adding to the confusion is the fact that marketing-wise, the daily newspaper industry has done itself a disservice over the years. We count households while radio and TV industries count viewers and listeners, respectively. While the eyeballs watching the average TV show or ears listening to the average radio station are getting incredibly small (with the average home receiving almost 120 channels, the majority of cable TV shows reach less than one percent of U.S. adults; ditto for the audience of many radio stations during any particular 15 minute period), newspaper audiences have remained significant. As new audience measurement tools (counting readers and not household) attests: Newspapers are truly the last mass media.

The Record’s readership today is significant. Our print product reaches 41,595 readers on the average weekday and 43,274 on the average Sunday; across seven days 73,235 people read our newspaper, according to a Scarborough survey conducted locally this year.

And grows our audience further. Unduplicated readership of our print and online readership combined is 46,192 on any given weekday and 48,112 on Sunday. Over the course of a week, 95,148 local people read our daily newspaper and/or web site.

None of these statistics include our three weekly newspapers, which drives our local, weekly unduplicated readership over 100,000.

So as 2010 fast approaches, I am very optimistic for our newspaper and its ability to recover from this recession. In my next column (Jan. 3) I will add to the list as to why 2010 will be a terrific year for all stakeholders in The Record – employees, readers, advertisers and the communities we serve.

But today is a fitting time to say "thank you" for reading The Record, and to wish that the peace and joy of the holidays be yours.

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