Print Captures Local Eyes, But Digital Gaining Ground

Among the main findings in a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project, 72% of adults are quite attached to following local news and information, and local newspapers are by far the source they rely on for much of the local information they need. Local news enthusiasts are much more likely than others to say that if their local newspaper vanished, it would have a major impact on their ability to get the local information they want. This is especially true of local news followers age 40 and older, who differ from younger local news enthusiasts in some key ways. 

32% say it would have a major impact on them if their local newspaper no longer existed, compared with just 19% of those less interested in local news. 

  • Most likely to report a major impact if their newspaper disappeared are local news followers age 40 and older (35%), though, even among younger local news followers, 26% say losing the local paper would have a major impact on them
  • 19% of adults who do not follow local news closely say they would feel a major impact and 51% say they would feel no impact at all from the loss of their local paper. Only 34% of local news enthusiasts feel this way. 

Among all adults, the most closely followed local topics are weather, breaking news, politics and crime, all followed by a solid majority of two thirds or more.  Slightly less popular topics but still with a fairly good following of about half or more are arts and culture, local businesses, schools and education, community and neighborhood events, restaurants, taxes and traffic.  Fewer survey respondents follow local news about housing, local government activity, job openings, social services, or zoning.  Roughly four in 10 adults or fewer follow these local topics.

Local news and information consumers stand out from other adults in several respects related to community attachment, general interest in all types of news, use of sources for local news and information, and the particular topics of interest to them on the local scene. 

As a whole, local news enthusiasts do not stand out, though, from other adults in their use of technology or in the way they use technology to participate in local affairs, such as sending around links or posting comments on websites.  However, among local news enthusiasts there are considerable differences in technology use across generations.   

Local news consumers are more connected to their communities than others, both in length of time in the community and in their connection with neighbors, and more likely to think they can improve their communities.  32% have lived in their community 20 years or longer (vs. 20% of others), and thus not surprisingly are more likely to know all of their neighbors.  This is driven largely by local news enthusiasts age 40 and older.  As a whole, local news enthusiasts are also slightly more likely than other adults to believe they can have a big impact on making their community a better place to live. 

Print remains the preferred format for catching up with the latest news, at least for frequent local newspaper readers, says the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) in an April 2012 report. Of the survey respondents, who were required to have used at least one of 4 possible platforms (print, online, tablet, and/or smartphone) in the past week for their local daily newspaper, 4 in 5 said they had read a print edition, while two-thirds had accessed the content digitally.

Local Daily Newspaper Reach (April 2012; % Adults Reading At Least One Platform Weekly)


Local Daily Reach

Sunday print edition


Weekday print edition


Online version from desktop or laptop


Online version using smartphone


Online version using tablet


Source: NAA, April 2012

Among NAA survey respondents, those who read the print format prefer doing so because it is a relaxing way for them to read the newspaper (66%), it provides a satisfying reading experience (61%), it is an easy way to get a complete view of the news (45%), and it has useful advertising (44%).

A Marketing Charts summary says the NAA study finds that male respondents are 14% more likely than their female counterparts to use a computer (64% vs. 56%) to access their local newspaper, and 26% more likely to use a smartphone (29% vs. 23%). There was virtually no difference in the proportion using a tablet.

Among the various age groups, 18-34-year-olds were 46% more likely than 35-44-year-olds (41% vs. 28%), and more than three times as likely as 45-64-year-olds (41% vs. 13%) to access local newspaper content on a smartphone. The popularity of print increases with age, with those over 65 16% more likely than the general average to read the print format (93% vs. 80%).

When it comes to sources of local news and information, 35% of local news enthusiasts say that local news sources give them all of the information that matters to them, 10 percentage points higher than those less interested in local news. They also use more sources of local news and information per week than others (mean of 3.77 vs. 2.84).  The youngest local news enthusiasts, those age 18-39, use the greatest number of local news sources weekly, with a mean of 4.38. 

Demographically, local news enthusiasts are more likely than other adults to be female, age 65 or older, retired, and African-American.  Politically, they tend to be conservative in their outlook (although they do not differ from others in party identification) and they also attend religious services more frequently than others.  They do not differ from other adults in terms of household income, but are less likely to be college graduates.

Despite their older age relative to other adults, local news enthusiasts are still fairly diverse generationally:

  • One quarter are Generation Y (ages 18-34)
  • Two in 10 are Gen Xers (ages 35-46) or Younger Boomers (ages 47-56)
  • One in 10 are older Baby Boomers (ages 57-65), in the Silent Generation (ages 66-74), or from the G.I. Generation (age 75+) 
  • Less enthusiastic followers of local news, in contrast, are more heavily concentrated in Generation Y (45%)

For additional information from the PEW Research report, please visit here.




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