Community newspapers remain strong

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, March 3, 2013

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend a conference in New Orleans for newspaper executives from throughout the nation. These business leaders came to the Crescent City to learn and share about the future of the newspaper industry.

I’ve attended many of these over the years. It’s always a great way to gain new ideas and to recharge the old ones.

But over the past few years, meetings like this seemed to dwindle both in spirit and in attendance. A cloud of uncertainty fostered by tough economic times and a digital revolution seemed to have drifted over our business during the later part of the last decade.

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This conference, however, seemed decidedly different from those of the recent past. Attendance was high, and spirits were even higher. There is a renewed excitement among my colleagues in the newspapers business.

Change is inevitable. In these days of smart phones and tablets, local news media outlets are learning to adjust and adapt. But in doing so, the old adage still rings true, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Upon my return, I was greeted with a news release of a study recently conducted by one of the newspaper industry’s major trade organizations, the National Newspaper Association. The findings parallel what the executives at the conference the week prior were all smiling about. Our business isn’t on the way out. On the contrary, our relevancy to our communities is as high as it’s ever been.

The study, now in its seventh year, continues to find that community newspaper readers still prefer their local newspaper for getting their news and information. The survey was conducted in small U.S. towns and cities where the circulation size of the local newspaper was 15,000 or less.

The trend for readership of community newspapers is consistent with earlier surveys. The study showed that 71 percent of the respondents read a community newspaper at least once a week. On average, readers spend 39.92 minutes reading local newspapers.

The pass-along rate, or average number of people reading each single copy of a newspaper, is 2.18.

Local news content is important, the study showed. More than half of readers (56 percent) had either clipped a story from the print newspaper or provided a link from the newspaper’s website to save or send to a friend or family member in the past 12 months.

The majority of local readers continued to regard community newspapers as highly valuable and important sources information about their communities.

• 75 percent read all or most of their newspaper.

• 43.8 percent keep their paper for more than 10 days.

• 77.4 percent read the paper for local news and information.

• 92 percent of readers thought local newspapers were informative.

• 83 percent agreed that they and their families relied on the newspapers for local news and information.

• 84 percent of readers (and their families) would look forward to reading the newspapers.

• 69 percent thought the newspapers provided valuable local shopping and advertising information.

• 75 percent agreed that local newspapers entertained them.

Nearly half of readers (46 percent) used the newspapers for their political and voting decisions.

Consistent with previous NNA research, readership of public notices in local newspapers continued to be solid, as a combined 51 percent “often” read the content. When asked, “Do you think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers?” 78 percent said “yes.”

NNA President Merle Baranczyk, publisher of the Mountain Mail in Salida, Colo., said the survey shows that without a doubt, people read their community newspapers.

“The numbers are self-evident. They indicate the level of connectedness people have with their community newspaper,” Baranczyk said. “From year to year, the studies have shown that people believe in their local papers, for the news they need and the advertising they rely on.”

The newspaper executives convening in New Orleans had a lot to smile about beyond the oysters and gumbo. After a few tumultuous years, local newspapers’ relevancy to our communities remains intact.

But that certainly doesn’t mean business as usual. Quite the contrary. With the advent of social media and portable digital devices, we all have access to more information than we can ever comprehend. A trusted source for reliable, accurate information is now needed more than ever to filter out the noise and help citizens make rational, informed decisions about their community.

I’m pleased, but in no way surprised, by the study’s findings. We at The Daily Leader are honored by the responsibility entrusted to us by our more than 12,000 readers of this, your hometown newspaper.

We appreciate the loyalty and trust you put in us every day and will continue to work diligently to provide news and information you can count on to make our community a better place to live and work.

Rick Reynolds is president/publisher of The Daily Leader. Contact him at