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A Passion for Print

12/August/2021

THE passion people have for their local newspaper and their desire to have a much bigger say in its future were revealed in the largest national survey of almost 4200 Australian country press newspaper readers in rural, regional, and outer suburban areas.

Conducted in November 2020, the survey was part of the Australian research project on how regional newspapers can thrive in the digital era. The project, ‘Media Innovation and the Civic Future of Australia’s Country Press’ (LP180100813), was led by news-media scholars and experts from Deakin University, RMIT University, and Country Press Australia. It was supported by $250,000 from the Australian Research Council, one of the Federal Government’s main competitive research funding agencies, and by Country Press Australia. This survey is the first of two national surveys, with the second, a survey of non-newspaper audiences, to be launched in the second half of 2021. 

The survey found that readers overwhelmingly view a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service for the community and that there is continued strong demand (and passion) for the printed product in rural and regional Australia.  Of particular note, it found that readers are 2.6 times more likely to read their local newspaper in print rather than digital format. The results also revealed that readers are five times more likely to go directly to a local news website than use Google or Facebook and are ten times more likely to use it than a Council website for their local news and information.

The project determined that the majority of audiences prefer a printed newspaper with younger generations also part of this trend, and audiences overwhelmingly viewed a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service for their community. 

The survey’s respondents strongly believe (and hold passionate views) that they should be invited to have a say about government policies and decisions affecting the future of local newspapers and any such policies affecting the future of local newspapers would influence the way they voted at the next Federal election. 

Notably, there is a culture of ‘free’ that exists among local news readers, where people believe content should be readily available without cost to audiences. They hold a distinct preference for local newspapers to be collaboratively funded by a range of relevant stakeholders, including government, to ensure their future and overwhelming indicated that any additional government funding for local news should be directed to employing more local journalists to report news, over increasing digital connectivity and digital products.

More than thirty per cent of respondents had experienced a natural disaster (fire, flood, or cyclone) within their community in the past two years and wanted local newspapers to do more to inform people on where to go and what to do in an emergency and help a community to pull together to make sense of the disaster. This was a clear priority over investing in digital software and technology to improve coverage or correcting misinformation.

Whilst the survey was distributed in digital format, it was evident from the survey responses and comments that the printed newspaper is considered vital to rural, regional, and suburban areas, especially for older audiences and those living in areas where internet access may be poor, or for whom it is unaffordable. The findings also found that local audiences are loyal and develop life-long patterns of engaging with local newspapers in areas where they live and work or have a sense of connection. 

It is clear that ongoing advocacy for the survival of the printed product is in the interests of all who wish to engage with local news and remain socially connected to their communities.

Print is and should remain a powerful way to communicate. Your local newspaper is the best way to connect your business to the community and your advertising dollars assist in ensuring its survival.

For more information, please visit the project’s website: www.localnewsinnovation.org

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