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Fact: Newspaper readers prefer print

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The number of people reading newspapers on their tablets and phones has soared over the past few years.

But don’t write off print newspapers just yet.

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that the majority of newspaper readership in 2014, 56 percent, took place in print only.

Perhaps more surprising, that’s up slightly from 2013, when 55 percent of readership was in print.

The report notes that while mobile readership of papers has grown, the bedrock of newspaper readership has remained older adults, and they tend to prefer print over new media options.

“One factor may be that the audience for newspapers skews somewhat older than for other sectors – compare newspapers, for instance, where the age category most likely to read the newspaper is 65-plus, to radio, where those 65-plus are less likely to be listeners than any other category except for 18-24,” Michael Barthel, research associate at Pew Research Center, tells Media Life.

Mobile-only readership has more than doubled, from 3 percent in 2013 to 7 percent in 2014. And print/desktop-mobile readership, where people look at all three modes of the paper, increased from 10 percent to 11 percent.

But not surprisingly, at a time when mobile devices have become ubiquitous, desktop-only fell, from 7 percent to 6 percent, and print and desktop was down from 15 percent to 11 percent.

Overall the report found more than eight in 10 newspaper readers opt for the print format at least some of the time.

Barthel says this reflects their demographics.

“Newspaper readers have been more likely to be white, and more likely to be high income, in every year we have been tracking it,” Barthel says.

The study also looks at newspaper circulation.

The Alliance for Audited Media has made a lot of changes in how newspaper circulation is measured over the past few years, making year-to-year comparisons very difficult. AAM has stopped releasing them.

But Pew says that when you look at average circulation, excluding branded editions and digital non-replica editions on days when a paper does not have a print edition, daily circulation fell 3.3 percent in 2014.

And it was down 3.4 percent for Sunday papers.

“The mix of what gets counted has changed to allow more types of content, and at the same time publishers have adopted these new rule changes irregularly. We hope that, in the coming years, their adoption becomes standardized in a way that enables apples-to-apples comparisons,” Barthel says.

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On May 28, 2015
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