December 16, 2016

Newspapers reach nearly seven in 10 Americans in any given month, according to a new report from the ratings agency Nielsen.

The report, drawn from a Nielsen Scarborough study, found that “more than 169 million adults in the U.S. read a newspaper in a month — whether it be in print, on a website or via mobile app.” Notably, more than half of monthly newspaper readers are reading print editions “exclusively.”

Newspapers remain largely a print medium, but the dramatic growth in digital media in recent years has compelled newspaper publishers to re-think their distribution models and become multi-platform content providers. According to the recent study, 81 percent of monthly newspaper readers engage with the print product, with 51 percent reading print exclusively. The remaining 49 percent reads a newspaper on at least one digital platform, with 30 percent reading both digital and print.

The report is also rosy about newspapers’ ability to reach younger readers. According to the study, millennials now make up 24 percent of the total monthly newspaper readership, which is consistent with the makeup of the total U.S. population. The report credits the newspaper industry’s “adoption of digital distribution” with the ability to reach a broader swath of U.S. adults.

Newspaper readership by platform.

Newspaper readership by platform.

The flip side of this readership, of course, is that it hasn’t done much to ease the financial woes of newspapers. The end of the year has been rife with news of layoffs and buyouts, with companies including Dow Jones, The New York Times and Gannett announcing cuts near the end of 2016.

Just a few individual newspapers — most of them national and international brands like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post — have been able to successfully leverage that expanded reach into viable digital subscription businesses.

But with print revenue dwindling and Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook gobbling up the digital advertising, regional and local titles will need to shore up alternative revenue streams to keep their businesses sustainable — and their reach intact.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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