This week marks the 2012 installment of National Newspaper Week, an annual observance that runs through the first full week in October during which newspapers take the opportunity to promote themselves. Print journalism executives across America have sponsored the NNW since 1940.
This year, the theme is: “NEWSPAPERS – The Cornerstone of Your Community.” How appropriate. This is a time when newspapers are redefining themselves while keeping a lock on what makes them the quality news sources they are while remaining the heart of the communities they serve.
Newspapers reach more than 100 million adults – nearly 6 in 10 of the U.S. adult Internet population – during a typical month. Consumers age 25 and above still are the core audience for our print product, but newspapers also reach nearly 60 percent of the critical 18-to-34 demographic in print and online during an average week.
Facts and figures, according to the National Newspaper Association:
• Number of non-daily newspapers – 7,000
• Number of daily newspapers – 1,408
• Total community newspaper readership – 150 million each week
• Community market adults with NO Internet access at home – 30 percent
• Average circulation of community non-daily newspapers – 8,125
• Average circulation of daily newspapers – 34,515
• Community non-daily newspapers with circulation less than 15,000 – 70.3 percent
• Community market adults who read classified advertising – 81 percent
• Community market adults who read public notice advertising – 75 percent
• Average amount of time spent with each edition of their local community newspaper – 38.95 minutes
• Percentage who read all or most of each paper – 73 percent
• Most frequently read topic – local news
• Community market adults who rely on community newspapers as their primary source for local news – 51.8 percent, nearly four times greater than the next nearest medium and ten times greater than the Internet
• Believe their community newspaper’s accuracy is good to excellent – 71 percent
• Believe their community newspaper’s coverage of local news is good to excellent – 75 percent
We are the local news source and news aggregators such as Google News know these numbers. That is why they rely on newspaper journalism as their primary source for content. Search engines will often refer news hungry folks back to newspaper websites. Among adults 18-plus, our web audience exceeds those of Yahoo/ABC, MSNBC (now NBCNews.com), The Huffington Post, CNN and CBS.
But there is more. There is integrity and relability. In this day and age, anyone with a computer, smart phone or tablet can post a story and call it news.
None the less, newspapers and the overworked, underpaid professional journalists who produce them crank out consistently accurate news and frames it in the proper context. It’s not free, but as the statistics above show, readers are still willing to pay for quality content.
Several years back, in the Dark Ages when the Internet was in its infancy, many news pros were flailing themselves with cat-o-nine-tails while lamenting the eminent demise of print news. “How can we compete? What will we do?”
But, this demise was premature. Newspapers have proven stouter than at first believed. They proved they can function in print, on websites, in digital partnerships and as part of the social media scene.
They did all this while maintaining their unique place in their communities. They are the very souls of the towns and cities they call home. They are the backbone of an educated, informed populace. They are the key to a energized and engaged citizenry.
No website can match this. We sift and sort through the noise and clutter to offer clarity and perspective, and we provide content that our readers can trust.
This has been a steep learning curve for us, especially for those of use who might not have been around when Guttenburg invented movable type, but started in this business using typewriters. We are adapting and we will be ready as changes come along.
So, the news landscape is different now, just as it was when radio came along and when television came along. Change is never painless. The hallmarks of professional journalism will always shine through, making the future for newspapers a bright one.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.