Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Newspaper Readership Dips Below Book Readership

Only 23% of Americans now read a print newspaper on any given day even though 51% of Americans "enjoy reading a lot" and on any given day 30% of Americans read a book in print.*

What a difference from 2002 when 41% of Americans read a print newspaper--a loss of 18% as the chart to the side shows.

By contrast print books lost only 4% in the past decade and daily book reading actually gained 2%* if you include digital book reading. Combing print and digital newspaper reading only raises the newspaper total to 29% in 2012 (still down 12% from 2002).

Why have newspapers suffered such a dramatic loss when magazines and books have not?

One reason might be that newspapers have lost credibility as a news source. Take, for example, the singular role that Nigel Jaquiss and Willamette Week have as an Oregon major print news breaking source despite competing with giants like the Oregonian (one of the top 25 U.S. newspapers in circulation).

The implosion of the Jefferson Smith mayoral campaign makes the point. It was Jaquiss who broke the story that Rep. Smith was cited in 1993 for assaulting a woman. The Oregonian's coverage had to admit the Jaquiss reporting as the key mover of this story:
Jefferson Smith's mayoral campaign called a news conference Monday afternoon, just hours after Willamette Week reported that Smith, 39, had been cited on an accusation of misdemeanor assault involving a woman in 1993 when he was a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
One would think with the leg up of having Jaquiss uncover the story that the Oregonian would use its vastly superior numbers in reporters and funding to to be in the lead in following this up.

But, no. Again Nigel Jaquiss was the first to find the woman involved who agreed to release the police report of the incident (a report Eugene police said no longer existed in its records). In a Monday, October 8th, story (posted before 7:30 pm) Jaquiss wrote:
WW obtained the police report Monday from the woman's lawyer, John Bassett, after she spoke to the newspaper.
By contrast the Oregonian's story was posted 2-1/2 hours later (October 8th at 10 pm), but did not mention Willamette Week's key role in obtaining the police report.

In two recent posts Max Redline has pointed to the credibility problem of news media and to the Oregonian's credibility problem in particular. Failure to uncover Jefferson Smith's violent past and present lies without the help of reporters like Jaquiss underlines the point.

Jaquiss and Willamette Week have beaten the Oregonian on huge Oregon political stories before (the Neil Goldschmidt scandal for which Jaquiss won a Pulitzer and the Sam Adams/Beau Breedlove affair and cover up). Again, with Jefferson Smith, a small newspaper shows the emperor has no clothes when it comes to blue blood newspapers like the Oregonian. It becomes easier to understand why more people would reach for a book than a newspaper.
*The current Pew Research Center report does note that 29% of Americans read a newspaper if you include digital version, but does not give a similar percentage if digital books are included in the book figure. However, an earlier Pew report indicates that as of December 2011, 84% of those who read a book "yesterday" read a print book. That would pencil out to about a 36% rate for daily book reading combining print, digital and audio.


MAX Redline said...

Failure to uncover Jefferson Smith's violent past and present lies without the help of reporters like Jaquiss underlines the point.

Nice catch, and entirely correct. It's worth noting that Goldschmidt ran to The Oregonian board and mea culpa'd after WW made it clear that they were going to run the story the following week. As The Zero had clearly been covering for Neil for years, he was looking for a sympathetic venue.

On books: I suspect that many still love the look and feel of the actual covers and pages; features that Kindle and other e-readers have been unable to replicate. And for bibliophiles, there's another factor: well-chosen hard-copies appreciate in value over the years.

I have one that today would sell for well over $400. That's never going to happen in e-books.

T. D. said...

Max, thank you for keeping the media and Oregonian credibility problem front and center.

As to the books issue, I have a foot in both camps. I now do a lot of of my reading on a Kindle. That is, reading of classic books (right now Jane Austen's Mansfield Park) and the Bible. It's great to be able to carry any number of books and switch back and forth without having to wait until I get home or go find them in my library. It's also a boon for general research. I have bought some digital classic reference books, and with the old Kindle 3g I can go online anywhere I am and search for answers. Then there are the instant dictionary definitions of words I don't know. So nice not to have to make the decision of whether to get up and get a dictionary or not.

However, on any current books that I want to read, I usually get the print version. (Right now reading one on Reagan, one on evolution, and one on art.) First, because the price break between print and digital is not as much as it should be. (Whereas classic books are free.) Second, I can easily lend the book to a friend after I've read it--or donate it (or see its value rise, as you note).