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Local papers are here to stay

Thoughts from Behind the Pressline

Operating a business today, in this economic environment is truly a challenge. And while many businesses and workers await a return to the good days, they need to realize that those days have past. This economy is not a short term slump, it’s the new reality. As a nation we’ve lost jobs that may never come back because technology, consumer needs and businesses practice have forever been changed. The future may never look like the past.

That doesn’t mean everything we know will go away and be replaced by something else. It only means we must all re-position ourselves to be more aligned with the changes taking place all around us. Old skills slowly become obsolete and new skills are required to meet the demands of the future. As such every business must look at the needs of their customers and be prepared to anticipate those changing needs in order to be successful.

Given some of the bad press newspapers have received in recent years, I’ve come across two interesting reports that I would like to share with you. The first from the National Newspaper Association. Unlike reports of the declining circulation from America’s top 100 or 250 newspapers the news from America’s 8,000 community newspapers paints a very different picture that you may not have heard.

The following survey details have been compiled over the last four years by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism:

Eighty-one percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week. Those readers, on average, share their newspaper with 2.36 additional readers. Community newspaper readers spend about 40 minutes with their paper, while 73 percent read most or all of their community newspaper. Nearly 40 percent keep their community newspaper more than a week (shelf life).

Three-quarters of readers read local news often to very often in their community newspaper while 53 percent say they never read local news online. Of those going online for local news, 63 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 12 percent on the website of a local television station.

Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He can be reached at dan@denpubs.com.

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