Scarborough: Most Americans Still Read Newspapers

Newspaper publishers hoping to staunch the flow of ad dollars out of the medium got some help this week from a Scarborough Research study, which found that 74% of American adults either read the newspaper or visit a newspaper Web site at least once a week.

These data indicate newspapers still enjoy considerable reach; whether advertisers will be impressed by these figures is another story.

Scarborough's latest Integrated Newspaper Audience study revealed that 171 million American adults read a newspaper's print or online version at least once a week.

What's more, well-heeled and well-educated consumers index even higher in newspaper readership, with 79% of white-collar workers, 82% of adults with household incomes over $100,000 per year, and 84% of college graduates reading print or online newspaper content at least once a week.

Of course, newspapers are still faced with a long-term decline in print readership, but the print versions still reach tens of millions of American adults. Commenting on the findings, Gary Meo, Scarborough's vice president of print and digital media services, stated: "While our data does show that print newspaper readership is slowly declining... given the fragmentation of media choices, printed newspapers are holding onto their audiences relatively well."

Impressive online figures show that at least in terms of audience -- newspapers have successfully transitioned to digital media.

According to a separate study by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America, between the first half of 2004 and the first half of 2009, newspaper Web sites' total unique audience almost doubled from a monthly average of 41,147,206 to 71,831,867.

In terms of active reach, altogether, newspaper Web sites jumped from 27.1% of all U.S. Internet users in the first six months of 2004 to 41.8% of all Internet users in the first six months of 2009.

While welcome news for the industry, these kind of data merely serve to highlight the fact that ad revenues appear to have become decoupled from audience size. An analysis of figures from Audit Bureau of Circulations shows that between the first half of 2005 and the first half of 2009, total circulation for 125 big American newspapers declined about 14%, from 27.1 million to 23.3 million.

Over the same period, print ad revenues plunged from $22.2 billion in the first half of 2005 to $12.2 billion in the first half of 2009 -- a 45% decrease, over three times the percentage decline in audience.

At the same time, newspaper publishers have failed to monetize online audiences at anywhere near the rate of their legacy print products: In the second quarter of 2009, total online revenues of $653 million were still less than 10% of total revenues of $6.8 billion.

Recommend (18)
6 comments about "Scarborough: Most Americans Still Read Newspapers".
  1. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing , November 18, 2009 at 9:46 a.m.

    I just commented on another article that in the past Brands were ok to pay for Ghost viewers of commercials. The same for Print. Brands paid to advertise in Newspapers knowing that depending on the Ad's location not all buyers of the paper will see the Ad, yet they pay for the full circulation number. Online made this measurable. Papers can see where people viewed and thus Brands wanted rates based on real CPM not ghost viewers. Classifieds aside, there needs to be a reconciliation between the measurable and the ghost models that will help preserve the 4th Estate from being destroyed from their faltering business model.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , November 18, 2009 at 10:28 a.m.

    When the bottom line, that is, sales increase after an ad - ANYWHERE, then the ad worked. How well? That's measurable and that measure may not be known for months. Store owners know when people walk in with the ad in their hand. Image ads work when there is increased interest or when it is timely for the consumer. There are some things that never get measured, but count.

  3. M Cohen from marshall cohen associates , November 18, 2009 at 11:12 a.m.

    Is there anyone else out there who would like to see the 74% who read a print version OR go online, be broken out?

    What percentage reads print?

    What percentage goes online?

    And what percentage does both?

    What are the researchers hiding? Seems funny that they are masking these data, no?

  4. Bill West from Comcast Spotlight , November 18, 2009 at 3:03 p.m.

    Something also likely left out of the Scarb study is the much better measurement of time spent with the media. I'm hard-pressed to think that "newspaper readers" online spend anywhere near the time on-line with that paper that they (previously) spend(t) with the printed version. As to HG's comment, this is one factor that did help the traditional printed version as core readers were likely exposed to many more ads than today's on-line viewer sees.

  5. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc. , November 18, 2009 at 3:28 p.m.

    Interesting strategy here in the Denver market - full page ads showing newspaper's decline at -8% market share and some local TV stations at -30%. Sort of "yeah, we're in free-fall, but not as much free-fall as some other folks". Sure to boost advertiser confidence.

  6. Alex Tilt from WiPromo , November 19, 2009 at 10:50 a.m.

    Just a reminder to us all that a strict comparison between print newspaper and digital is a red herring: a decade ago our local paper boy would leave a copy of say, the NYT or the BOSGlobe at our "front door" whereupon the average subscriber would get around to reading it "cover to cover". Today, our front door is a digital one in which we get our news (graze/speed read are operative words) from more than one publisher and more than one time zone/country. For instance, I start my online/mobile day in Hong Kong (Std), Australia (theAge), Europe (FT) and then move West to the BOSGlobe, WashPost, NYT, WSJ, LATimes, CNN, Bloomberg. TIME, and my favorite blogs- all roughly in the same amount of time. More importantly, I can drill down on links and learn about OTHER cultures through video (visual/aural) or WIKIs etc. Try it sometime. It will help you get out the proverbial box and help us save the US newspaper/advertising industries and maybe even print YP. (And yes, trade black ink stains and our forests for carpal tunnel and radiation exposure!) Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving to all.