Rumors of our death greatly exaggerated

"Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism; when a great one goes, history itself is denied a devoted witness."—Richard Kluger

Since we changed our web site and put up a subscriber wall last May, I've had four negative comments from people who think our product should be free.

But given the local economy, we're looking to add subscribers and are getting out of the "giving it away" business. It's kind of humorous to realize that when people write to complain about not getting a product free, they are basically demanding we work for nothing. One person even threated a boycott — Sheesh! Thanks a lot from a family that's published this paper for 98 years running.

Radio and TV have their strengths, but for people who value getting the full story, as opposed to a soundbite or opinion laced commentary, I believe newspapers are still the most important source.

But the dailies are moving a lot of their readership to the web and losing print readership in the process. The doom-andgloom stories you read about newspapers are based only on the top 100 circulation papers. But they're not the whole story.

Unfor tunately, communit y papers get lumped in with dailies, even when our weekly or semi-weekly products have been holding their own in the face of a recession. I've been pleasantly surprised at our local advertiser support. Yes, we were down some for the year, but not nearly as much as I had feared.

If you use this community paper to help your customers get your message, thank you. If you're not quite sure community papers are for you, here is some information from a recent study performed by the National Newspaper Association, in cooperation with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism:

• 80 percent of America's newspapers have a circulation of 15,000 or less.

• There are about 8,000 community newspapers in America that fit that description.

• 86 million Americans read those community newspapers every week.

• 81 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week. • Those readers, on average, share their paper with 2.36 additional readers.

• Community newspaper readers spend about 40 minutes with their paper.

• 73 percent read most or all of their community newspaper.

• Nearly 40 percent keep their community newspaper more than a week (shelf life).

• Three-quarters of readers read local news often to very often in their community newspaper while 53 percent say they never read local news online (only 12 percent say they read local news often to very often online).

• Of those going online for local news, 63 percent found it on the local newspaper's website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 12 percent to the website of a local television station.

• 60 percent read local education (school) news somewhat to very often in their newspaper while 65 percent never read local education news online.

• Nearly half read local sports somewhat to very often in their newspaper while 70 percent never read local sports online.

• 62 percent read editorials or letters to the editor somewhat to very often in their newspaper while three quarters never read editorials or letters to the editor online.

Three quarters of readers have read public notices in their community newspaper.

• 68 percent have never visited the website of local government.

• 47 percent say there are days they read the newspaper as much for the ads as for the news.

• 30 percent do not have Internet access in the home.

• Of those with Internet access at home, three-quarters have broadband access.

The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 60 percent of respondents: that's four times greater than the second and third most popular sources of local news (TV/14 percent and friends and relatives/13.4 percent).

Readers are 10 times more likely to get their news from their community newspaper than from the Internet (5.8 percent).

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2009-11-05 digital edition

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