by Mike Masnick

Plenty Of People Still Read Newspapers -- But What Does That Mean?

from the believe-it-or-not dept

Despite reports that have predicted the complete death of the newspaper business, a new study suggests that the pull of the internet as a news gathering source still pales in comparison to the newspapers. The study notes that the percentage of people who rely on a newspaper for their daily news has remained steady for the past two years, following a decline earlier in the decade. Of course, it's difficult to tell what this really means, as there could be an awful lot hidden in the numbers. The study seems to ask what the "primary" means of news gathering is -- not taking into account that the various media are not mutually exclusive. That means shifts may be much more hidden. I may use a newspaper as my "primary" means of gathering news, but slowly the internet takes up more and more of that role until it finally flips. Also, the study uses the very general term "news" which could cover all sorts of things. People use newspapers for certain types of news, radio for others, tv for something else and the internet for something else. Trying to generalize "news" across all media to determine how people are getting their news can be highly misleading in recognizing how important each type of media really is. Either way, this won't make newspaper publishers relax very much if subscription numbers continue to slide.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    SearcH EngineS WeB, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 7:47pm


    Possibly, the portability and dependability is what keeps newspapers active.

    Comuters, Workers on Lunch Breaks (who want to leave the desk, or are dissuaded from surfing), Business Waiting Rooms, Shoppers needing coupons or pull-outs

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    LukeD, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 7:57pm

    Newspapers aren't going anywhere! How else are we to get our fireplaces started? Ever think of that?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    ggwfung, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 8:10pm

    "Either way, this won't make newspaper publishers relax very much if subscription numbers continue to slide."

    I don't think there's any question that the dominant media form is now the internet. The history of media tells you that you follow the the money - ad money - to see where people are.

    There is the possibly that newpapers just morph into news portals, and still have paid writers and accountability, but why aren't people prediciting the death of books? (or should they be?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Nick, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 8:35pm

    Personally I like holding a book in my hands and later adding it to my collection. I have a PDA and experimented with books on that, which are cheaper and just a download away, but I still buy hardcopies of everything I want to read.

    Newspapers on the other hand? I can see these being replaced as computers advance; the problem now is portability. I have the image wireless internet everywhere and people on their commute to work looking at the New York Times on a tablet that is constantly updated and contains videos where just pictures would be and the Wall Street journal with real time quotes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    James Bond, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 9:49pm


    May be dated but is real and you can hold it in your hand and it is still there when the tv,radio and computer is shut off.Can you clip a coupon from a computer,put an obituary in the family bible for history of your family also ? No.There is also too much information to absorb and use on the internet and Email without being overwhelmed and a newspaper paces your life rather than Blackberries and laptops driving it.More important are those daily and weekly papers that are comprised of maybe 32 to 48 pages tops that reflect what is necessary and good in youir community that are part of your life

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    David B, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 9:57pm

    Newspaper serve local markets

    The Internet is by far the best source of information for national and world news and opinion, but for most midsize and small markets local newspapers are the only game in town.

    To many people national and world news is secondary to reports on k-12 school events and sports, obituaries and local government and this is where there is almost no quality coverage on the Internet. As long as there is local news and local advertisements there will be newspapers, even if they are online or downloadable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Rick, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 12:14am

    I know at least 3 members of my family that still subscribe, just because they need it to keep their pets paper trained.

    So, yes, the newspaper is useful - for sh*t.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    zcat, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 1:03am

    Fish and chips for dinner tonight...

    'nuff said...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Ralph, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 3:41am

    plenty of people still read newspapers

    Let's face there is nothing like the morning paper and coffee... especially on Sunday mornings...end of comment!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    anonymous, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 4:43am


    What about trees? We have to be kinder to trees, they are an important part of life on our planet. That's an important advantage of digital media.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    haywood, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 5:07am

    The main reason I read the local paper is; to keep an eye on the local government. You know, the ones that made abuse of eminent domain a supreme court issue, the ones that passed the IPMC, the ones that find a way to tax anything and everything .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Old Guy, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 5:25am


    Bottom Line. I Hate reading anything lengthy on a computer monitor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    ffp, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 5:56am

    someone made the last buggy whip too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Mr. TV, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 7:30am

    A lot of people need to read their local news in the newspaper. If you live in New York City, maybe you can get all of your local news online. Try getting it in Podunk, PA!

    Also, some businesses are okay with you reading the paper at work, but frown on using the internet. Until that climate changes, newspapers will be in business.

    All of this may change as the new generation becomes adults. We'll have to wait 20 years and so how it affects sales.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    JungleJim, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 9:43am


    I am considered older generation by many or by most because I was born in 1945, however I have never subscribed to any newspaper, nor do I feel a need to paruse the obits every morning. If I am awake and upright, I know my name isn't in them.

    I never had any use for yesterdays news, have always listened to some radio and tv news, but those to are pretty much yesterdays news. I love the internet where I can scan and read what I want or print out an article I especially like without having to subscribe to the rest of the garbage in local and or national news rags.

    I really don't care much to the mainstream media, and get most of my news from what is considered off the wall news sites, but actually they tell it like it is instead of trying to slant it one way or the other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    DittoBox, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re:

    Most newsprint is recycled...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    rijit (profile), Jan 6th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Most newsprint is DittoBox
    There are tree farms as well... pretty big business here in East Texas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jeff, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 4:47pm

    As a mechanic I don't have ready access to a pc, so every morning I stop to get my paper and jumbo big-gulp at the store. Yes, by the time info gets to the paper is already out of date by internet standards. But a paper can get more of the why and what-for as opposed to the internet's what happened that day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Trvth Jvstice, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 5:09pm

    I, like most people that read newspapers, read them because they have become part of my day. Of course I can get my news faster and easier on the internet, but reading the newspaper has become part of break or lunch time.

    I couldn't imagine lunch without reading the paper for a bit and doing the crossword.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 8:11pm

    the newspaper has a long way to go before it falls under to getting news online. i personally don't read the newspaper; i can't stand half the stories. it's so much nicer to be able to select what category news you get and not have all the fluff that's irrelevant to your life. however, there's an enormous amount of people who read the newspaper, and, as it's been mentioned in other posts, incorporate it into their daily lives to the point where there is an apparent void when a paper is not read. with such permeation into the masses there isn't a chance you'll see newspapers replaced by online news for at least 50+ years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 8:16pm


    Newspapers aren't going anywhere! How else are we to get our fireplaces started? Ever think of that?

    egg cartons work great :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    misanthropic humanist, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 8:20pm

    I like newspapers as "things", as "pastimes". Occasionally of a weekend I go and buy a random newspaper, take it home and pore over each word and column from start to finish like a book. Sometimes I get a right wing rag, a pompous and elevated broadsheet like the Torygraph, sometimes a lefty leaf like the self righteous Guardian of morality, or sometimes a comic tabloid like the Sun which always has hilarious stories of human stupidity like people who are suing someone because they put their dog in the microwave to dry out.

    The most important grounding aspect is the tittle tattle. One can't have a dinner converstation with normal people without some grasp of local concensual reality. What is Kate Moss wearing? Who has transferred to Manchester United? Is the dollar still falling against the Euro?

    Then I go back to my heaven and hell of code, pointers to pointers to fuctions, equations - a wordless world. Internet "news" is just a disposable gap filler, even though it contains insights that a mainstream newspaper would never publish. It is so unlike a newspaper which has a coherent feel, it's disparate. The internet for entertainment is like watching TV sped up 100 times while surfing channels. It's a dissociated stream of factoid snippets, barely coherent illiterate rants (including those I write), Slashdot, Digg, YouTube clips, Beta animations, Techdirt, always with one eye on an xterm spewing compiler output while I sit here, a temporarily useless human awaiting output. I can shout back at its nonsense in fragmented outbursts, like round after round of a FPS game, because once the coffee hits the bloodstream my fingers won't stay still and my brain doesn't disengage. Maybe I should take up Yoga.

    But anyway, newspapers - they are relaxing, and comforting in a way that on-screen information can never be. Thay are a one way conversation, they say "shut up and read me", and I generally laugh while I read them, especially at the so called "serious" stories. So I guess I agree with James Bond and Justice Trvth, crosswords are good for the mind too, but I hate those sudoko puzzles, too much like actual real programming work.

    I thik newspapers will be around for a while.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    John, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 9:23pm

    I get all my news from newspapers - online

    I'm not sure how I would get my news if it weren't from newspapers. I access it online, because it's free. I know that doesn't help the newspaper, but as long as they offer it for free, I'll take it for free.

    Television and Radio news can't go into the stories in as much depth as print -- whether your read it in newsprint or online.

    If someone asked me in a poll whether my primary news source was newspapers, I'd say yes. If they asked me if my primary news source was the internet. I'd say yes. Same thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    pkw, Jan 7th, 2007 @ 9:13am


    google buggy whip, and see how many you can still buy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2007 @ 2:51pm

    newspaper decline is inevitable

    All it means is that newspapers still have a long way to fall. Anyone betting on the existance of newspapers in their current form, in 20 years time is taking a huge risk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Jimmy, Jan 7th, 2007 @ 2:56pm

    I live and breath the tech industry, but I still buy the Sunday edition newspaper cause it's easier to browse, I look for local retail deals, and "sometimes" I get tired of computers since I'm sitting in front of it most of my waking hours and just get away from the bright screen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    jeeper8788, Jan 7th, 2007 @ 4:47pm


    just put simply... some things are just better left alone and un-techy-fyed (is that a word?)

    i don't know who's idea was it to get rid of all things that are not up to date and new and replace them with a computer...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    LUA, Jan 7th, 2007 @ 6:49pm

    TatterTools LOGO

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Howie, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 6:59am

    Re: Re:

    The perception that digital media saves precious resources is a popular misconception. Think about all the toxic metals that are mined and never properly recycled for those digital devices. Add to that the power needed to charge batteries. Much of that is made from coal-fired generators. And finally, the lack of a sustainable recycling system that allows obsolete digital devices to be exported to third world countries that engage in dubious recycling practices. On the other hand, paper is grown, much like other farm products, recycled, and to a great extent reused. Think about that the next time you check the news on your laptop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    misanthropic humanist, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 11:53am

    total cost of delivery

    Those are all good points Howie, in principle. But then what about the cost of transporting printed matter against electronic delivery? I think it would be a very complex study to do to get any really meaningful figures.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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