Road Signs: February 2010

Depending upon who is paying for a survey and who is interpreting it, a silver lining is always possible. For example:

MediaPost reports that a recently released Scarborough USA Study of the Integrated Newspaper Audience – those who actually read a newspaper in print or online – revealed that 74% of all U.S. adults(171 million persons) read a newspaper during the week surveyed. The trade newsletter quoted backhanded praise of the results from Scarborough vice president Gary Meo, “ …given the fragmentation of media choices, print newspapers are holding on to their audiences relatively well.”  John F. Sturm, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, was quoted with this unlikely take from the Scarborough findings “…this data also provides further evidence that newspapers reach a highly educated, affluent audience.”

Another Media Post summarized an Adweek Media/Harris survey of newspaper readership, “the era of Americans reading a daily newspaper every day is coming to an end.” Only two in five Americans do so. Seven in ten read a newspaper once a week and 81% once a month. Ten percent never read a newspaper. That number jumps to 17 percent in the 18 to 34 age group while the number who read a newspaper every day drops to less than 25 percent.

MediaPost also reported that a study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism revealed that 95% of what the public learns is “still overwhelmingly driven by traditional media, primarily newspapers.”

And, a Center for Media Research report of another AdweekMedia/Harris poll shows that newspapers and magazines get the most votes of any medium when it comes to where they can find the best bargains. Yet, the Outsell News Users research predicts steep drops in newspaper circulation according to another Center for Media research brief. The brief also notes that Google drives some readers to newspapers but 44% of Google News visitors scan headlines without accessing a newspaper site.

That’s one reason why Google is threatened by antitrust actions in Europe. According to the New York Times, Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, a spokesman for the German Newspaper Publishers Association, said the Web sites of all German newspapers and magazines together made 100 million euros, or $143 million, in ad revenue, while Google generated 1.2 billion euros from search advertising in Germany.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s 350 million members post an average of 3.5 billion pieces of content to the site, everyday, according to the Immediate Network’s Media Digest. The publication also quotes Manchester Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger as warning the newspaper industry could be “sleep walking into oblivion” if it ignores irreversible trends towards more freedom in communications set loose by the Internet. Yet, news baron Rupert Murdoch, the New York Times and some smaller newspapers are moving towards complete, selective or partial paywalls to replace lost advertising revenues.

The Wall Street Journal found a clever way to make one day’s issue free to browse by anyone. Acura enhanced its brand value awareness by picking up the day’s paywall tab. That might not be so great a cost as imagined because, as media commentator Joe Marchese observed, “Magazines, newspapers and television broadcasters have spent so long building up a system of metrics that tell a story to marketers that helps sell advertising slots. So now, all of a sudden when they have to sell their actual distribution online (because it can be so easily measured), they can’t compete with themselves.”