Good news for newspapers

Wayne MitchellNewspapers are not dying. The truth is most Mississippi newspapers are doing just fine, and many are thriving, with readership growth and increased advertising revenues.

That was the message I brought home from the Mississippi Press Association Mid-Winter Conference last week in Jackson.

The problem is that, despite being in the communication business, those of us at newspapers are not very good at conveying the message about our own industry. Instead, we continue to be inundated with material from television, internet businesses and social media suggesting that people don’t read newspapers anymore.

But saying it doesn’t make it true. And that is what researchers found in a major new study of Mississippians by American Opinion Research, the highly respected research and polling organization from Princeton, N.J.

Researchers found that newspaper readership in the state is very strong. Seven of 10 Mississippi adults read a printed daily or non-daily newspaper or their websites in an average week. That’s 1.5 million adult consumers.

Newspaper readership in the state is even stronger among younger adults, ages 18 through 34, with 72 percent saying they read a printed newspaper or its website in an average week. Some of the other facts gleaned from the study:

– 55 percent of adults say they read a weekly newspaper during an average week.

– Four in 10 adults say they rely on printed newspapers as their primary source of local news, and about the same number rely on local cable television, although television is generally fragmented.

– 45 percent of Mississippi adults who use any advertising for local sales and shopping information say printed newspapers are their primary source. Local TV is second with 14 percent, followed by advertising in the mail with 10 percent. What about social media? Just 4 percent.

– 38 percent of consumers say newspapers are the most trustworthy advertising source. Eighteen percent trust direct mail, 12 percent trust TV advertising, 8 percent trust websites and 5 percent trust radio advertising. Facebook and other social media are considered trustworthy by only 4 percent.

– Direct mail advertising is not well read, with 34 percent of it being thrown away unopened. Another 38 percent say they just skim through it.

– Television commercials are not watched frequently by Mississippi consumers. Only 25 percent watch a commercial when it comes on television. Twenty percent fast-forward through commercials using a DVR, 18 percent channel surf during commercials, 14 percent hit the mute button and 12 percent say they leave the room.

– Radio listenership is not particularly high among adults in the state. Only 44 percent listen during morning drive time and 35 percent listen on the way home. Many of those are tuned to Sirius XM satellite radio.

Needless to say, I came away from the conference rejuvenated. Mississippi newspapers always have had a good story to tell and now we have the research to support it.

Gazette readership and advertising revenues are growing. The research shows why.

About Wayne Mitchell

Publisher of the New Albany Gazette