Newspaper readership is no urban legend

You’ve heard of urban legends, right?

Like the lady who had a spider bite that turned into a nest of eggs that hatched under her skin, or the tale of the kid that died from drinking cola after swallowing Pop Rocks.

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How about this one: “Nobody reads newspapers anymore.”

Like many urban legends, everybody’s heard it, and some people assume it must be true because they’ve heard it often enough.

Well, like Pop Rocks kid and spider-egg woman, it just isn’t so.

The debunker in this case is 2019 Newspapers 24/7 study, conducted by News Media Canada, the national organization representing more than 1,100 daily and community news media outlets across the country.

This study, the seventh annual one, was conducted in February across all provinces, in English and French and consists of 800 online interviews. It was designed to explore how Canadians read daily and community newspaper content, on different platforms and at different times during the day.

Since the first study back in 2012, there have been shifts in reading by platform but one thing has not changed: Canadians continue to access newspaper content across all the various platforms. 

In 2012, 85 per cent of Canadians reported that they read newspapers on any platform, over the course of a week and in 2019 that number has climbed to 88 per cent.

This year’s report also found that 83 per cent of newspaper readers are accessing at least some of their newspaper content online.

But that’s not replacing print readership, it’s supplementing it: the study found more than half of readers access newspaper content from both print and online sources.

The study found that readers from all demographics use multiple platforms; print, desktop/laptop computer, phone and tablet; to access newspaper content. Most print reading happens early in the day, while digital reading is more consistent from morning to night.

Which brings us to the other urban legend: millennials don’t read news. The research specifically looked at the newspaper reading habits of younger Canadians, and found that 88 per cent of millennials (those born between 1982 and 1999) read newspapers weekly; the same percentage as the overall population. The difference with this generation is how they access newspaper content, primarily through their mobile phones; and when they read, they peak early in the morning and are more consistent throughout the day, while Boomers peak in both the morning and again after dinner when reading news content.