A Nielsen Scarborough study measured U.S. newspaper readership and found that more than 169 million adults read a newspaper in print, on a Web site or on a mobile app in a month in 2016.
In total, newspapers reach 69% of the U.S. population each month.
According to the study, 81% of monthly newspaper readers engage with a print product. Some 51% read print exclusively.
The remaining 49% reads a newspaper on at least one digital platform, with 30% reading both digital and print.
Only 5% gets their news from a Web site exclusively.
Traditionally, newspaper audiences tend to be more educated, affluent and older than non-newspaper readers, according to Nielsen. While the first two traits continue to be true, the expansion of digital media has attracted younger readers. As a result, the ages of newspaper readers more closely reflect the general population.
For example, millennials make up 25% of the U.S. population and now represent 24% of the total monthly newspaper readership.
However, newspaper readers on any platform are still more likely to be college graduates and have annual household incomes over $100,000 than non-readers. Digital newspaper paper readers are 49% more likely than the general adult population to be a college graduate and 43% more likely to have household incomes over $100,000.
Most digital newspaper readers are millennials, at 32% of the population. Print newspaper readers tend to be part of the baby-boomer generation, at 37% of the population.
While newspaper consumption habits shift, so do newspaper revenue streams. Print advertising continued to fall fast this year. Though media companies strive to build up digital subscription numbers, it has yet to be enough to balance out the declining numbers.
The Wall Street Journal, for example, lost 21% of its overall advertising revenue in the third quarter of 2016. The New York Times suffered an 18% loss, Gannett lost 15% and Tronc saw a 11% dip in its print ad revenue.
News industry analyst Ken Doctor reported forecasts of another 10% decrease in print revenue next year.
Reading is not the same as being a paid subscriber, so high readership is not a panacea. I "engage" with many newspapers that never see a nickel of my money and I use an ad-blocker or paste the URL to anonymous browsing. The only real way to track the health of newspapers is subscription and advertising revenue.
I saw recently that subleasing multiple floors of office space may be a source of revenue for giants like the NYTimes. Sadly, some struggling newspapers competing with a larger newspaper are willing to tear down their paywalls to build a readership base. As soon as their paywall goes up again, to monetize the readership, the readers may just locate another free print outlet of comparable value. There are only so many Jeff Bezos and Carlos Slim billionaires to ride to the rescue.
Of course, we should remember that in 1960, when there was no Internet, and TV had just attained penetration of 89-90%, something like 80% of the adult population read one or more daily newspapers per day and just about everybody was reached by this medium in a week or ten days. That said, the problems that newspapers face in attracting advertisers---especially national branding advertisers---go well beyond audience numbers. First and foremost, many of these advertisers---rightly or wrongly---do not believe that newspaper ads are effective branding instruments. Moreover, nost national advertisers want national media to purchase; they do not make media plans for each market---again, rightly or wrongly. Finally, there is the matter of targeting capabilities. In most markets there is a single paper to choose from---you buy it or you don't. If you are targeting the travel or car buying market you try to place your ad in the section---if there is one---dealing with that subject. As for digital venues, the newspapers have been slow to recognize that branding advertisrs, who are all over TV's newscasts, want video ads, not static display ads, in compatible editorial environments. That way they can try to reach more interested and better targeted audiences via newspaper websites with TV commercials---but how much of the newspapers' website ad dollars are coming from such advertisers---TV advertisers? It appears that the answer is ---not many.