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Just two in five US adults (43%) say they read a daily newspaper – either online or in print – almost every day, while 72% read one at least once a week and 81% read one at least once a month, according to a December 2009 Adweek Media/Harris Poll.

The study found that one in ten adults (10%) say they never read a daily newspaper.

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A similar study by Scarborough Research found that 74% of Americans say they still read a newspaper with at least some frequency. Readership levels in that study were higher among the affluent, educated and white-collar workers.

The Graying Newspaper Reader

Daily newspaper readership skews heavily toward the older age groups, the poll found. Almost two-thirds of those ages 55+ (64%) say they still read a daily newspaper almost every day. Younger Americans read newspapers less often. Just more than two in five of those ages 45-54 (44%) read a paper almost every day as do 36% of those ages 35-44. However, less than one-fourth of those ages 18-34 (23%) say they read a newspaper almost every day and 17% in this age group say they never read a daily newspaper.

Paying for Online Content Won’t Work

Though many newspapers are exploring the possibility of charging a monthly fee to read a daily newspaper’s content online, the poll results suggest this tactic is unlikely to work. Three-fourths of online adults (77%) say they would not be willing to pay anything to read a newspaper’s content online. Among the minority willing to pay, one in five online adults (19%) would only pay between $1 and $10 a month for this online content and only 5% would pay more than $10 a month.

There is a slight regional difference in who would pay for online content, results showed. More than four in five online adults in the Northeast (81%) say they would not be willing to pay anything to read a daily newspaper’s content online. Those across the country, however, are more willing. While seven in 10 Westerners (71%) still say they would not pay, almost one-quarter (24%) of Westerners would pay between $1 and $10 a month to read a paper’s content online.

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The poll’s sponsors say results illustrate the struggles of the daily newspaper, which will continue as Americans have more and more ways to find the news content they want. “The challenge for newspapers will be discovering a way to get their content to people and make money doing so,” Harris Interactive said in a press release. ” One area they were intently exploring was charging for online content, though it appears they need to find another way.”

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Similar research about online newspaper subscriptions by The Boston Consulting Group found that some global consumers are indeed willing to pay small amounts to receive news – especially from online national and local newspapers – on their personal computers and mobile devices. However, the amount they ultimately would be willing to pay depends upon the country they live in and on the type of content that they deem most valuable. The average monthly amount consumers are prepared to pay ranges from $3 in the US and Australia to $7 in Italy.

About the survey: This Adweek Media/Harris Poll was conducted online within the US on December 14 and 16, 2009 among 2,136 adults (ages 18+). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys.

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