Newspapers Best Opportunity Is Online

    April 30, 2009

As the newspaper industry continues to struggle its best opportunity is online, according to a new annual survey by the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

The survey found that Internet users read online newspapers for 53 minutes per week, the highest level seen so far. In contrast, Internet users in 2007 spent 41 minutes per week.

The survey also found that 22 percent of Internet users stopped their subscriptions to a printed newspaper or magazine because they could access the same content online.

Jeffrey Cole
Jeffrey Cole

"The most significant trend about how Americans are changing their news reading habits may be found in comparing the use of online media by light users vs. heavy users," said Center director Jeffrey I. Cole.

"Heavy Internet users spent 65 more minutes per week reading online newspapers than do light users."

Cole said there are four main reasons for the rapid decline of printed newspapers: the loss of newspaper classified advertising to the digital realm, concerns about the environmental impact of newspapers, the economic downturn, and no prospects for new readers.

"Thirty years ago, teenagers began to read newspapers as they reached their adult years. Today, teenagers don’t read printed newspapers, and research indicates they never will," Cole said. "Yet we’ve found that teens are more interested in news than any generation we’ve seen in a long time, only now online sites are their news sources."

Cole said significant bright spots still remain for newspapers. "Since the beginning of radio, newspapers have not been able to compete with broadcasting for delivery of immediate news," said Cole. "But in a digital world, newspapers can compete at least as effectively for breaking news delivery with broadcast media."

"The key to newspapers’ success will be making bold moves entirely into the digital realm, and building business models that allow them to thrive online."