More people reading community newspapers

People are more apt to sit over a steaming cup of java and peruse their favorite community newspaper than avail themselves to other media sources for their local news and advertisements, a national study shows. While national trends show a downward spiral of interest in large daily newspapers and television news programs, reliance on community newspapers to inform and empower citizens remains strong and healthy, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Newspaper Association (NNA). The survey found that readership of community newspapers actually increased from 81 percent in 2005 to 83 percent in 2007. This is in stark contrast to news reports purporting to chronicle the decline, if not demise, of newspapers. The news comes as no surprise to the owners of Denton Publications, Inc., and New Market Press, partnered publishers of 10 community newspapers in upstate New York and Vermont. Dan Alexander, president of Denton Publications, Inc., in Elizabethtown, N.Y., said the companys newspapers mirror the national trend of increased interest in local, community news. Both Denton Publications and New Market Presss 2007 audit data indicates that readers are more interested in local goings-on than ever before and they are turning to local community papers for more information. Some 83 percent of adults over the age of 18 read a community newspaper on a weekly basis, Alexander said. Approximately 73 percent of these readers pass along the paper to their friends, family members, and othersthis more than doubles the number of people who pick up and read our papers. On average, readers spend 41.8 minutes reading an issue of their weekly paper, thats an increase over the 2005 data, Alexander said. And something like one-third of readers keep their paper for more than six days, enabling them to revisit a story, photo or advertisement when they like. While our weekly newspapers are somewhat uniquethat is, we distribute free, advertising-paid papersits still a very different story when compared to the paid dailies around us, said Ed Coats of New Market Press in Vermont. Circulation at the nation's largest 800-plus daily newspapers declined 2 percent in 2007. Sunday papers, too, saw a drop in circulation. Prime news source According to the NNAs Stan Swartz, the national newspaper organizations 2007 survey shows that local weekly newspapers are the primary source of information for both news and advertising by a 2-1 margin over the next most popular media, including radio and television. The NNA reports the following Primary source of information about local communities: 45.3 percent: local newspaper 20.6 percent: television 5.7 percent: radio 3.5 percent: Internet So how effective are the areas community newspapers to meet these demands? I think were doing pretty good when you look at the NNA and Circulation Council audit data, Coats said. Something like 75 percent of readers believe their local news coverage is good to excellent while 70 percent believe the accuracy of their community newspaper is good to excellent. About 67 percent believe the quality of writing in their community newspaper is good to excellent. Also, 62 percent believe the fairness of reporting is good to excellent. Instant news Media reports have painted the Internet as perhaps the chief nemesis of newspapers, said NNAs Executive Director Brian Steffens. Yet newspapers are responding to the Internet as an opportunity, not just a threat. Nearly 30 percent of community newspaper readers report they have visited their local paper's Web site in the last month, an increase from 19.5 percent in 2005. Weve had a phenomenal response to our new regional Web site, said Alexander. Were partnered with New Market and share the same Web site (www.denpubs.com). Coats adds that readers feel safer when they can enter through an Internet site that is associated with their local paper someone they know and trust.

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