Study: 7 in 10 local news readers wouldn’t greatly miss their hometown paper

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project
Pew’s latest report, a deep dive into the characteristics of people who closely follow local news, is one of those glass-half-full/half-empty situations. Pew reports:

Nearly three quarters (72%) of adults are quite attached to following local news and information, and local newspapers are by far the source they rely on for much of the local information they need. In fact, local news enthusiasts are substantially more wedded to their local newspapers than others.

The report goes on to say that 32 percent of these people say the disappearance of their local paper would have a major impact on their lives. Among people who aren’t that interested in local news, about half say their lives wouldn’t change at all if they didn’t have a local paper. Good, for newspapers, right?

But look at it another way: That means 68 percent of local news enthusiasts don’t believe the disappearance of their local paper would affect their lives in a major way. And 34 percent of such enthusiasts say the disappearance wouldn’t affect their lives at all.

This likely reflects local news enthusiasts’ reliance on TV; Pew reports that 80 percent of them use broadcast TV on a weekly basis, compared to 48 percent for newspapers, 52 percent for radio and 57 percent for “word of mouth.” TV was also the preferred source for weather and breaking news, the two issues local news enthusiasts follow most closely.

Then there’s the issue of paying for news. Glass half full:

Local news enthusiasts are twice as likely as other adults (38% v. 19%) to have a paid subscription for delivery of a local print newspaper, led almost entirely by the 46% of older local news enthusiasts who currently pay for this service. …

Glass half empty: 72 percent of local news junkies say they wouldn’t pay for online access to their newspaper. Most of the rest, 23 percent, would pay $5 or $10 a month. At least that’s greater than those who don’t closely follow local news.

Other findings:

  • Adults who follow local news closely skew older, female, African-American, politically conservative and religious.
  • “Local news consumers are more connected to their communities than others … and more likely to think they can improve their communities.”
  • They rely on more sources of news than people who don’t follow local news closely, particularly the youngest among them.

Earlier: Americans rely on newspapers for local coverage of crime, community events, governmentMore Americans now follow local, national news closely; teens, adults both rely most on TV for news || Related: Cable tops local TV news as source of campaign, election information.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Dave M

    If local newspapers start to fold, then the void left, if it is currently not being filled with local radio or TV coverage, will be filled very quickly with hyper-local “blogs” each attacking different niches. We already see this trend. Newspapers simply cannot compete – the options for online “anything” coverage is too cheap and easy to implement.

  • Mary Miller

    I believe the average reader doesn’t recognize that the local news and information from their daily newspaper (in print) and the news online are almost always from the same source.  They likewise don’t think that the disappearance of the print copies would change their lives because they are assuming they will still be able to access the information they need online.  Which may or may not be true depending on whether or not the “newspaper” goes out of business or simply chooses to publish only online.

  • Larry Riley

    I agree Melissa. 
    Having worked in large and small markets…and now leading efforts in a
    smaller market, I can boast unequivocally that hometown newspapers matter.  During my short tenure in this beautiful NorCal
    community, I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing the power of our print/digital
    press…with readers and advertisers alike! 
    In fact, this election cycle is further proving the case.

  • Melissa Bower

    Anyone reading Poynter knows full well that the elimination of a local news source will have an immediate and negative impact on the community.

    Although it might take an average reader a little while to realize it.

    I think this study makes the fallacy of connecting “local news” solely with the newspaper. And that’s not necessarily the case. While working in a local market, I was told that our newspaper was the only news source in town. That wasn’t true. There was a local radio station, and its reporter went to every single school board meeting, city commission meeting and county commission meeting, read police reports and court docs on the air. So that’s another local news source. Unfortunately, many local news sources do not do this, and that is why they are being replaced by commercial-led and activist-led partisan news websites. Who are not objective and love telling people how and what to think.

    What do you think local politicians will do with taxpayer money if no one is watching?