The story of declining circulation and readership among U.S. dailies is a common refrain among media analysts, but a new research report shows that in recent years a given newspaper gets passed around more, even as fewer people buy their own copy. Scarborough Research and the Newspaper National Network today released a study saying that newspaper “readers-per-copy” rates have increased over the past three years as circulation numbers have declined.
The report, based on a study of readership and circulation numbers of “25 leading U.S. newspapers,” says that the number of adults to read a given broadsheet has risen from 3.07 in 2007 to 3.30 in 2009, a 7.5% increase. The researchers conclude that readership is a crucial measure of newspapers’ effectiveness. “Newspaper publishers are running their businesses more efficiently. Fewer printed papers are needed to reach a comparable number of readers, and digital formats are enabling newspapers to reach a growing audience,” said NNN president and CEO Jason E. Klein in a statement.
The report also found that newspaper readers tend to be more affluent and are more likely to have graduated colleges and to own a home.
Before we get too rosy about all this, it’s important to note that both readership and circulation for newspapers are declining. It’s only because readership is falling slower than circulation that the number of readers per copy is increasing.
A .pdf of the study is available here. (It’s currently the top link on the list).