Thursday, January 8, 2009

Who's Polling Who, Addendum

The December issue of Presstime had a chart from a Lee Enterprises survey -- OK, Lee may soon be known as the company that redefined the meaning of Junck bonds (sorry, cheap shot) -- but it showed the following readership on a seven-day basis:

Among 18-to-29-year-olds, print-only readership grew from 35 to 37 percent of the company's markets; print-and-online together from 13 to 18; online only from 6 to 9.

Among 30-to-39-year-olds, print-only readership stayed 37 percent; print and online from 18 to 20; online only 7 to 10.

Among 40 to 59s, 47 to 49, 15 to 19, 5 to 6.

So, among everyone younger than 60, online-only readership ranges around 8 percent of the markets; print readership, exclusive or in conjunction with online, somewhere around 60 percent.

And the floor on print-only readership seems to be around 35 to 40 percent -- which dovetails with the studies mentioned here the last two days. That floor holds up even among the youngest group.

What this says to me is that our view of newspapers is too dependent on using the habits of seniors as the norm. Yes, those over 65 love print newspapers to death. (And until death.) But using them as the control group is like saying that the 1950s were the last normal period in American history. Wait, that is what many people do say! (And today's seniors were the teens and young adults of the 1950s. So maybe it fits. It was, perhaps, the last period in which people felt overwhelming societal pressure to conform to normative, not normal, behavior.) Around 70 percent of those over 65 read a print newspaper. That will never happen again. So we need to treat that group as the anomaly now, and accept the new normal. (Perhaps amazingly to some, 8 percent also use print and online together in the Lee study. But essentially no one over 65 uses online as their only source of news from the Lee newsrooms.)

Next week -- why the new normal might actually be a good thing for ad sales. This does not mean I am recovering my optimism about printed newspapers.

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