Depending on the day of the week, display advertising space in the Richmond Times Dispatch costs from $96 to $131 per column-inch. One column-inch is about the size of a postage stamp. And Richmond’s only the hundredth-largest media market.
National and local advertisers alike are abondoning newspapers for digital media, mainly to save money.
But, according to an April 26 report from the Center for Media Research, maybe they shouldn’t be.
The high cost of cost-cutting
Citing findings from two surveys released in April — one from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project, the other from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) — the report shows that saving money in this manner comes with a high cost.
This is because the vast majority of Americans follow local news closely, and an almost as vast majority see newspapers as their main, often only, local news source.
“[N]early three quarters of Americans (72%) report following local news closely ‘most of the time, whether or not something important is happening,’” Pew reports, “and local newspapers are by far the source they rely on for much of the local information they need.”
Almost two-thirds of NAA survey respondents (66%) read the dead tree edition of their Sunday newspaper and 64% on weekdays. Contrast this with 26% who read the online edition on smartphones and 12% on tablets.
Not just for old fogies
Among media buyers, newspapers have borne the stigma of being an old folks’ medium, but the survey findings don’t exactly bear that out.
Of the local news enthusiasts, the overwhelming majority of whom are newspaper readers,
- 25% are Generation Y (18-34 years old)
- 20% are Gen Xers (35-46) or Younger Boomers (47-56)
- Only 10% are older Baby Boomers (57-65), Silent Generation (66-74) and GI Generation (75+)
“Wedded to their newspapers” and no divorce in sight
These local news enthusiasts are more likely to follow 12 out of 16 subjects the Pew survey asked consumers across the nation about: “including weather, breaking news, politics, crime and schools/education.” And newspapers were where they preferred to follow them:
For 14 of these 16 topics, the local newspaper is local news enthusiasts’ preferred source of information (or tied at the top with another source). Overall, local television news is the preferred source for just four topics, while the internet is preferred for just three of the 16 asked about.
Roots in the community
One thing that local retailers sacrifice by abandoning newspapers is a channel to their most committed prospects.
The Pew study found newspaper-reading local news enthusiasts to be more connected to their communities and knowing them better, having lived there longer, and more interested in actively improving them — by buying local instead of online, for example.
Advertisers who walk away from that could end up finding that the money they saved by going all-digital really costs them in the end.