Scarborough Study: Papers Holding Onto Readers

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bjorninge/1351839543/

Cheer up, fellow journalists! Newspaper companies may actually be holding onto their audiences with the romantic lure of their bulky ink-stained bundles of joy after all.

A recent Scarborough Research study found that an average of 74 percent of adults in the United States read a newspaper at some point in the past week, while 10 percent more college grads and/or those racking up six figure incomes did the same.

Oh, boy. Put down that Kleenex.

That odd sun-splotched patch of optimism we’ve so desperately needed in the bleak desert of the chronic bad news that is the media industry has finally arrived!

I think.

Maybe?

Uhh..

The sad truth is, I’m still left with an unsettling amount of unanswered questions after reading the details.

First of all, I’d be really curious about the reading habits of younger consumers in particular.

While it’s certainly nice that the majority of American adults (at least, the majority of those who Scarborough got a hold of) are actually sitting down to read the paper, (or digitized fraternal twin) to what extent was the younger generation represented here?

On what age brackets in particular did the researchers focus for this study?

I mean, my generation is essentially going to responsible for carrying on the tradition of reading news the ‘old-fashioned,’ non-blogger-assisted pattern of news consumption…if they are so inclined. Some statistic on the news consumption habits of my peers undoubtedly would have been helpful, or at the very least, interesting.

Just from personal observations, (I have by no means attempted any form of scientific research and, admittedly, nor do I plan) it doesn’t seem like a great amount of my non-journalism peers aren’t really ‘up’ on current events.

Not long ago, I heard what I thought was a particularly well-done David Letterman Top Ten List on the radio during my regularly agonizing drive to campus for an eight a.m. class. The topic: ‘Least Popular Musical Standards,” a cleverly written series of parodies of classic big band tunes interspersed with snippets from major news stories.

Anyway, the events in the lame little songs (sung by Gramy Award winning artist Michael Buble, who I assume had some sort of album coming out at the time( weren’t exactly what I’d call trivial–Web-surfing Northwest Airlines pilots, president Obama’s candid denunciation of Kanye West and of course, that bizarre balloon incident that took place in Colorado.

I eagerly sent it off to my boyfriend, a chemical and biomedical engineering major, and half the references went right over his head. Really. You could almost hear the audible ‘swoosh.’

My best friend’s sister, likewise, seemed to be unaware of the fact that the Senate might want to have some sort of say in healthcare reform after the bill passed in the House…as evidenced by an overly enthusiastic Facebook message.

I always have to laugh to myself when a professor takes a hand count of everyone in class who reads the print version of the newspaper while he or she is standing in the middle of a journalism class. It’s even more amusing when he or she acts as though the high number of raised hands is realistically any consolation.

I mean, come on. Many of us are practically bribed into reading the thing with the possibility of a god-awful news quiz grade. Initially, I was a part of this group, I’ll admit. Now, as much as I enjoy my daily dosage of the Times, I still read the whole thing online for free.

Even so, I’d be interested in knowing how many 18 to 24-year-olds read the paper on a daily basis. This group, after all, is going to be the main consumer group in an ever-changing market. It would certainly be nice to know what they think.

Then, there’s the financial issue. When I read this article, I thought exactly what most of you probably thought initially: ‘Great. So, 74 percent of people are actually doing something to educate themselves. How in God’s name is that going to make money?’

Researchers claim that this exulted 74 percent read either the print or online version of a newspaper at least once in the past week. However, I’d really love to know how many people actually paid for that content?

Who’s to say that the majority of these people didn’t just read something that a friend e-mailed to them, or grazed over a few articles on the digital version of the the wall Street Journal before they hit the almighty pay wall?

In that sense, I’d really like to know exactly how committed these readers were to consuming news. Did this particular group of people read the paper (or digital alternative) only once a week or five times a week? Would they actually be willing to spend money on a subscription for something that they only glance over fleetingly, or was this a group of diehard news junkies who would be willing to pay with their first born?

Once industry executives (or budding entrepreneurs) find concrete answers to those questions and find a way to monetize online news without alienating the majority of their readership, they’ll be back in business.

And thus, all will be well in the kingdom of Printopia….

or at least, the online version.

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