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Thoughts from a broad

Newspaper readership

With the forever changing sands in the media landscape, print media is often considered a dying medium, with continued reports of falling advertising revenue and dwindling readership figures placing weekday mastheads under threat.

So, unlike many, I wasn’t surprised when recent statistics showed The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun have all increased their weekday readership (Roy Morgan Research).

In an industry where we are quick to decry the benefits of traditional media, I believe these figures show that newspapers still serve a purpose in today’s media landscape and remain intrinsic to a developed society.

Newspapers have been the primary source for circulating information for five centuries, developing from a weekly Gazette in 16th century Venice to the first newspaper published in Germany in 1609. While at home, Australia’s first and longest running paper launched in 1803 – which has since become the Sydney Morning Herald.

From politics, wars, disasters, economics and local news, newspapers have provided information to the masses, enlightening, educating and bringing communities and like-minded individuals together for centuries. In turn, loyalty to newspapers meant that print has become a powerful and credible tool to communicate with consumers as newspapers hold value beyond news.

As we moved into the technological era in the early 2000’s, audiences began spreading their attention online across multiple news sources, such as social media, blogs, news sites and smartphone apps. This digital revolution created a dilemma for many masthead newspapers, as changes to advertising revenue streams and readership demographics evolved. However, this wasn’t the first time print faced the challenges of media consumption patterns.

Publisher’s resilience has already weathered readers shifting their attention to cinema, radio and television, who were all 'new mediums increasing fragmentation' at one time or another. Today's publishers are no different and have just had to adapt to the latest ‘fast-paced swipe and forget’ reading method of the digital consumer. New reading methods have revitalised print media in my opinion, giving it an ability to connect with new audiences, delivering instant and easy to consume content whilst meeting the fast pace of online audiences.

Leading the evolution of viral stories and live news feeds in a 'snackable' digital world means that print newspapers remain fundamental for in-depth analysis, fact-checked, high quality journalism. The original and admirable editorial policy from the Sydney Morning Herald held “principles of candour, honesty and honour”, which provides the standards that we have relied upon from newspapers over the past five centuries.

With trends showing national news sites are more favourable than the local online equivalents, communities are turning to physical format newspapers for regional news. Roy Morgan's recent survey reinforces this trend showing that the Illawarra Mercury, Geelong Advertiser, Cairns Post and The Advocate have also increased readership.

Which brings me to my point

As I started to edit this piece, I sat on an airplane. There were five of us sitting across six seats of which the other four were all reading either a physical format magazine or newspaper. None of these publications were provided free by the airline, they had all purchased their chosen reading material. One of my fellow travelers had his iPad stuffed into the seat pocket in front of him. The other three had their laptops shoved under their seats.

When I asked why they were reading a physical printed format rather than the digital versions (which may have been more convenient on a plane) without exception the quality of the reading was the response. They unanimously proceeded to inform me how they felt more attention could be paid to the content matter that they were reading within the physical format. As one distinctly put it "when I read on my iPad I ‘skip’ read and it just isn't the same". The others concurred and reinforced my opinion.

So while digital media inevitably occupies a great deal of our attention, print mastheads remain a keystone in our developed society for in-depth quality journalism. Cross-readership between both digital and print is also a powerful duo which continues to benefit both readers and publishers. Each platform is just consumed and valued differently by readers. Anyone who says that print is dead is underestimating it and doesn't truly understand media consumption patterns.

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