Measurement: Newspaper Readers or Circulation?

According to the latest Integrated Newspaper Audience finding from Scarborough Research, in its recently released Scarborough USA+ Study, 74% of U.S. adults, or nearly 171 million people, read a newspaper, in print or online, during the past week. The study examined newspaper readership, which captures media patterns and other consumer behaviors of adults across the country. Newspapers are still read in print or online by a critical mass of adults in the U.S. on a daily and weekly basis, says the report

Gary Meo, Scarborough Research's Senior Vice President of Print and Digital Media Services, notes that "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... "

The analysis of Scarborough audience data not only indicated that newspapers are being read by a majority of adults in print and online, but also that these Integrated Newspaper Audiences continue to attract educated, affluent readers. In an average week:

  • 79% of adults employed in white collar positions read a newspaper in print or online
  • 82% of adults with household incomes of $100,000 or more read a printed newspaper in print or online
  • 84% of adults who are college graduates or who have advanced degrees read a printed newspaper in print or online

Integrated Newspaper Audience is the percentage of adults in the market who have read the printed newspaper over 5 week days or on Sunday, or visited the newspaper's website(s), or did both during the past seven days.

"Printed newspapers have continued the tradition (as trusted sources of news and information) by successfully extending their brands into the digital space," said Mr. Meo... "(the recent study) is noteworthy in the wake of... reported significant declines in weekday and Sunday printed newspaper circulation... (as) circulation and audience do not always march in lockstep as they are two different measurements."

Audience, which is measured by Scarborough and accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC), refers to the percentage or number of adults who actually read the newspaper. Circulation, which is audited and reported by the ABC, refers to the number of printed newspaper copies sold.

John F. Sturm, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, concludes that "For media buyers, analysts and others who evaluate the health of newspapers and the value of (the) medium's advertising, audience is a far more meaningful way to measure newspapers' ability to attract a growing audience across multiple platforms... (and) this data... also provides further evidence that newspapers reach a highly educated, affluent audience."

For more information from Scarborough about this study, please go here. 

7 comments about "Measurement: Newspaper Readers or Circulation?".
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  1. Howard Zoss from Zig Marketing, November 23, 2009 at 8:30 a.m.

    Basic Scarborough research cop-out ... the only reason they now report integrated is that at 10% decline every 6 months, printed newspaper statistics would look sick ... and Scarborough derives much of their revenue form newspapers.
    Not believable and no longer usable.

  2. Catherine Bodock from Keenan-Nagle Advertising, November 23, 2009 at 11 a.m.

    The data are still reported for "in an average week". Still not very helpful when trying to determine the most efficient and effective media for advertisers.

  3. Philip Moore from Philip Moore, November 23, 2009 at 11:54 a.m.

    I used to subscribe to Scarborough research, but this is so blatently self-serving that I will no longer believe anything Scarborough publishes nor will I pay a subscription for their data. You can be in the research business or you can be in the PR/Advocacy business, but you can't be both at the same time.

  4. Ryan Keeler from The University of Texas at Austin, November 23, 2009 at 4:33 p.m.

    "84% of adults who are college graduates or who have advanced degrees read a printed newspaper in print or online."

    Every one of them could have been thinking "yeah, I read the Wall Street Journal on Thursday," when they answered the associated questions, and that would not be surprising or tell us anything important.

  5. Greg Satell from Digital Tonto, November 23, 2009 at 8:28 p.m.

    The basic problem newspapers have is that their business model is based on classifieds. Those are gone to the internet and won't be coming back.

    It's going to be very tough for newspapers, no matter what the circulation numbers say.

    The only hope is to make money on weekly inserts. There is no way to make money in print without display advertising anymore.

    - Greg

  6. Randy Novak from NSA Media, November 30, 2009 at noon

    Why is it so hard to imagine that adults read newspapers in print, online and mobile? And why is it so hard for marketing peple to understand that consumers actually want newspaper advertising; and thus should consider how to better use the medium as opposed to writing it's obituary at every opportunity? The industry is certainly not without fault, but let's get real here... it still drives a hell of a lot more business for advertisers than than it gets credit for.

  7. Michelle Cubas from Positive Potentials LLC, December 5, 2009 at midnight

    Hi, Jack,

    Seems the numbers buck the trends. However, I contest there is a wild card in the equation.

    Reading the newspaper is a ritualistic experience that trends back to families habits. I've heard tales of people languishing in bed all afternoon reading the NY Times. They have favorite sections, too. Their new ads tie into this mythology about swapping the sections.

    Until the "40 years in the desert" pass and no one remembers what a newspaper was, the die hards will cling to the smell of the ink and quirky paperfolding technics, especially commuters.

    There's more to this than reading a paper. It's a rich, tactile experience with long-term memory. mc

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