If newspapers are supposedly dying, how come so many people are reading them? And why has billionaire Warren Buffet purchased 71 of them?
It’s true the newspaper industry has been dramatically impacted by the internet and social media, but it’s also true that thousands of newspapers continue to thrive in their communities. And PR pros who ignore this reality are missing out on a big opportunity.
The death of the newspaper makes for a great story, but the numbers don’t completely back up this tale. There are more than 11,000 local newspapers in the US, and the growth of the Internet has actually driven readership, as 8 in 10 Americans read newspapers digitally each month, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
The key is to stop thinking of newspapers as physical products and start thinking of them as media organizations that are using both print and electronic channels to serve their audiences.
And while you’re at it, if you are a PR professional ask yourself how many of the 11,195 local newspapers in the country are you reaching with your campaigns?
So why isn’t the local newspaper dying? And why should PR and marketing people care?
Because community newspapers are hyperlocal in ways that most other mass media aren’t — serving their communities with content and advertising that isn’t usually available elsewhere.
Newspapers are Hyperlocal
“If you want to know what’s going on in your town — whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football — there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job,” wrote Warren Buffett in a March 2013 letter to his shareholders, after he purchased 28 local daily newspapers in a span of 15 months.
“I believe that papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly-bound communities and having a sensible Internet strategy will remain viable for a long time,” he added — only a few short years after he, too, declared that the newspaper industry was dying.
The typical community newspaper is hyperlocal, covering a town or at most a couple of towns, and has little to no competition for news, display advertising and classifieds — especially when compared with major urban dailies.
Newspaper Readership is Huge
Most importantly, the audience numbers for newspapers continue to be staggering, even in a world of increased new media options and more devices on which to consume news, information and entertainment.
Interestingly, newspaper readership is surprisingly popular among younger audiences, due in large part to greater availability on digital and mobile platforms. Digital newspaper readership is growing among all ages, especially Millennials.
Among those ages 18-24, 84% of women and 80% of men read newspapers digitally. These numbers climb among Millennials ages 25-34, as 92% of women and 87% of men read newspapers digitally, according to data issued by the Newspaper Association of America in 2015.
And just as with print editions, the numbers skew toward those with higher incomes, as two-thirds of Millennials with household incomes of $100,000 and up read newspaper content each week.
Overall, more than 170 million adult unique users read digital newspapers monthly. By comparison, the largest-ever Super Bowl audience in the U.S., Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, drew an average audience of 114.4 million viewers, peaking at 120.8 million viewers in its final minutes.
The importance of the local community newspaper audience is obvious to anybody with a consumer-facing brand to market. However, most PR campaigns overlook local community newspapers — especially those beyond the top 100 papers in the country.
To shed some light on the importance of this market and how PR professionals can integrate local newspaper, TV and radio coverage into their existing campaigns, we’ve written a free eBook offering detailed information about the local media landscape and tips for securing local coverage.
So until local communities stop caring about local news, sports and activities, it’s a pretty safe bet that local community media outlets will be there to serve them… and to listen to your next PR pitch.
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