The ‘Has Digital Distribution Rejuvenated Readership?’ report reveals that in 2016 the 18 to 34-year-old British readers of eight UK national newspapers spent a total of 21.7 billion minutes reading the news brands’ print editions, but just 11.9 billion minutes using their websites and apps.
Lead author Professor Neil Thurman of Ludwig Maximilians University Munich and City, University of London said: “For younger readers, like for middle-aged and older consumers, newspapers’ print editions provide an experience they invest time in, compared to how they snack and scan news online.”
The study from the universities of Oxford, London and Munich calculated the total time spent with eight UK newspaper brands, The Mail, Mirror, The Sun, Star, Standard, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Times, by their British print and online audiences aged 18 and overusing data from the National Readership Survey and comScore. The full report is available online here.
Young readers spend less than a minute on a newspaper brand’s website and Apps
Whilst readers aged 18 to 34 spent an average of 23 minutes reading each weekday print issue, and more on Saturdays and Sundays, online readers for those same newspapers visited the brands’ websites and apps for an average of just 43 seconds a day. The one exception was the Daily Mail, where the popularity of MailOnline’s entertainment and celebrity editorial focus means that Brits under 35 spent twice as much time online than in print.
Co-author Dr Richard Fletcher noted: “The popularity of MailOnline with younger readers is due to an editorial approach focussed on entertainment and celebrity—very different in character from the more conservative stance taken in print.” The news helps refute the myth that young people prefer reading digital alternatives to print.
In fact, recent initiatives by newspaper brands such as The New York Times suggest this to be true of younger generations still. The NYT has launched a monthly print-only section for children after a successful trial had parents clamouring for it to make Kids a regular feature in the paper. Meanwhile, in the UK, First News, the weekly newspaper for seven to 14-year-olds, recorded the highest circulation among children’s magazines in the latest figures issued by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC).
Less time overall spent with newspaper brands than in 1999/2000
However, the report also notes that although most newspapers are attracting more attention from younger readers via their print editions than via their online channels, the young are spending less time with newspaper brands than they used to. This even though digital distribution has made access easier and cheaper – in part because of the vast amounts of alternative news sources now available online.
The report compares the time spent with newspapers in 2016 against the time spent at the turn of the millennium. Overall there has been a 40% drop, with much larger falls in the attention coming from younger (-64%) and middle-aged (-57%) readers than from the older (-14%) audience segment.
Guardian and Evening Standard ‘more visible’ than at the turn of the century
However, some newspaper brands have bucked this downward trend in visibility. The report found that the total time spent with The Guardian and the London Evening Standard by their British audiences had actually increased since the turn of the millennium, by 19% and 17%, respectively.
The report credits The Guardian’s relatively successful online editions and to Brexit and Trump ‘bumps’ in print readership in 2016. In the Standard’s case its switch to a freesheet format in 2009 has boosted both readership numbers and time spent with the brand.