NPR: Millennials know what newspapers are, have touched them

One finding in the most recent State of the News Media report didn’t sit right with Katy Pape, an intern with NPR’s research department:

23% of people aged 18-24 reported reading a newspaper yesterday. As a Millennial myself, I was slightly skeptical. Were these 18-24 year olds just confused about what a newspaper is?

Pape pulled the raw data, and looked at the questions respondents were asked “so I could be sure that Millennials were not mistaking ‘noticing a pile of newspapers at Starbucks’ for ‘reading a newspaper.’ ” (If research doesn’t work out, Katy, you might want to give blogging a go!)

“They were specifically reminded that neither electronic copies nor the newspaper’s website count as printed paper. Neither does a tablet or mobile device,” she reports. They really were handling and reading newspapers. They weren’t heavy readers; 22 percent of the Gen-Y’ers polled read a paper at least every other day, compared with 40 percent of all adults. But again: Young people. Touching print. Are you listening, Megan Fox?

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  • Anonymous

    I wonder if it counts the free papers you get on public transport. Or do you not get them in the US?

  • Vin Crosbie

    Reminds me of minor but nonetheless important error a few years ago in a Pew Internet survey’s results, which reported that the vast majority of college students were ‘ill-informed’. Asked what ‘ill-informed’ meant, Pew’s representative explained that the vast majority of the college students didn’t each day listen to radio or television newscasts over-the-air or read a printed newspaper. When pressed that college students use other ways to keep informed (visiting news website, viral transmissions of news across social media sites, etc.), Pew subsequently revised it survey question and definition of ‘informed’.Moreover, reading a printed newspaper generally involves turning and viewing all the pages, hence glancing at all the stories in that edition. By contrast visiting a newspaper website generally involves going and seeing only to the specific story (such as one cited by a friend on Facebook) or else visiting only a few webpages (for example, Nielsen//Netratings reports that the average visitor to a newspaper website sees only one to 3 stories per visit. Nobody reads an entire newspaper website each day. So, what does ‘reading a newspaper yesterday’ really mean when data for print edition and online edition is combined and conflated? Did the reader see all that day’s stories or just a single story or two?When usage behavior is radically different for the two types of editions, the data about each of those usages, as well as the meaning of ‘use’, should be different.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget that many in the 18-24 age bracket are in college, where picking up the campus newspaper is still common. It’s the unusual nature of college campuses. My bet is that when those students graduate, they won’t be picking up the non-campus daily in their town, but rather will be getting their news via digital means.