Majority of small town residents read community newspapers

COLUMBIA, MO.—About two-thirds (67%) of residents in small U.S. communities in the United States read local newspapers ranging from one to seven days a week, according to the 2013 Community Newspaper Readership Study conducted by The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) on behalf of National Newspaper Association (NNA) in Sept. and Nov. 2013.

Center for Advanced Social Research of RJI completed 508 telephone interviews (using both landline and cell phone numbers) with adults aged 18 or older randomly selected in areas where the circulation size of the local newspaper was 15,000 or less. Since 2005, NNA has been commissioning the survey to examine public attitudes, perceptions and readership of local newspapers in small communities.

The response rate of the survey was 41.2%. For results based on the entire sample, the margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting the surveys may introduce some error or bias into the findings.

The survey shows that 67% of the people interviewed read a community newspaper at least once a week. The readership was 71% in the 2012 survey, 74% in 2011 and 73% in 2010. Further analysis shows that older adults read the newspapers significantly more than younger adults.

Although the readers are apparently aging, local newspapers continue to be the primary source of information about communities in small towns and cities. Four out of 10 residents (42%) selected “newspaper” and “newspaper’s website” as their primary source of information; 47% preferred to use “newspaper” and “newspaper’s website” for the information.

Community newspapers continued to be highly valuable to communities, as 94% of readers agreed that the newspapers were informative; 80% said that they and their families looked forward to reading the newspapers; 78% relied on the newspapers for local news and information; and 72% said the newspapers entertained them. These findings imply that the perceived values are true assets of community newspapers, and hence should always be reckoned in order for the newspapers to continue to play an important role in people’s lives in the future, whether in print or online or both.

The 2013 survey shows that 92% of residents had a cell phone, significantly more than 84% in 2012. More important was that 45% had a smartphone, compared to 24% in 2012, suggesting that more people in small towns and cities could be reached via smartphone technologies than ever before.

Thirty-nine percent of smartphone owners used the devices to access local news, significantly more than 31% in 2012 and 26% in 2011. Similarly, 53% accessed shopping information with their mobile devices within the past thirty days, higher than 49% in 2012 and 38% in 2011. These results suggest that there is good potential to be utilized by community newspapers to explore and develop digital products and APPs in the future.


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