Half of Newspaper Readers Stick Exclusively to Print

January 3, 2017

Newspapers’ cross-platform audience – print, website and mobile app – numbers more than 169 million adults in the US, or 69% of the US adult population in a typical month, according to recently-released figures from Nielsen Scarborough. And while print newspaper ad spending has been plummeting, the same can’t be said for the print audience.

In fact, the World Press Trends survey released earlier this year indicated that print newspaper circulation was down by just 2.4% last year in North America, while the decline of print newspaper ad spending was three times larger (-7.2%). On a global basis, although print newspaper ad spend fell by 7.5%, circulation increased by a solid 4.9%.

In the US, print remains the preferred platform for newspaper consumption, according to the Nielsen Scarborough data. Among monthly newspaper readers, a slight majority (51%) read in print exclusively. Including those who read in print and also on other platforms, the research indicates that 81% of monthly newspaper readers engage with the print product. In combination with newspapers’ multi-platform reach, that means that about 56% of the US adult population reads print newspapers each month. (MarketingCharts discovered a similar weekly audience for print newspapers in our 3rd annual Media Audience Demographics study.)

By contrast, only one-fifth (19%) of the monthly newspaper audience eschews print in favor of mobile or web access only.

The Nielsen analysts note that traditionally newspaper audiences have been more affluent and older than non-newspaper readers, but that the advent of digital media has brought a younger reader. As such, 38% of digital newspaper readers are in the 18-34 bracket, compared to 25% of the print newspaper audience.

It’s worth noting here, though, that different types of newspapers attract a different audience profile. In our 3rd annual Media Audience Demographics study, we examined two types of newspapers – national newspapers (such as The New York Times) and local newspapers.

We found that national newspapers attract the most affluent audience of all traditional media types we examined, with 43.3% of the average issue audience coming from households with at least $100k in annual income. Local newspapers, for their part, drew the oldest audience of the offline channels we examined, as about half (50.8%) of their audience is aged 55 and up.

Our study also indicates that print national newspapers can draw a young reader, while newspaper websites are popular with older Millennials (25-34). The Nielsen analysts note that digital readers “represent an even more affluent and educated segment of readers,” and our study likewise found a significant skew to the affluent among newspaper website visitors. Of those visiting these websites at least monthly, an impressive 46.2% came from affluent ($100k+) households.

See the full Nielsen Scarborough data here, and head on over here for your copy of MarketingCharts’ Media Audience Demographics report, which breaks down reach and audience composition (by age, household income and race/ethnicity) for 13 major media types.


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