Survey: 81% read public notices in their local paper

June 16, 2014

Two-thirds (67%) of residents in small cities and towns in the U.S. read a local newspaper ranging from 1 day to 7 days a week, according to the 2013 Community Newspaper Readership Study conducted by The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) on behalf of National Newspaper Association in September and November 2013.

Since 2005, NNA has been commissioning the survey to keep track of public attitudes, perceptions, and readership of editorial and advertising contents in local newspapers in small communities across the country. Center for Advanced Social Research (CASR), of RJI and Missouri's School of Journalism completed 508 telephone interviews (using both landline and cell phone numbers) with adults aged 18 or older in areas where the circulation size of the local newspaper was 15,000 or less.

Although the readers are apparently aging, local newspapers continue to be the primary source of information about communities in small towns and cities. Four out of 10 residents (42%) selected “newspaper” and “newspaper’s website” as their primary source of information, lower than 48% in 2012; 47% preferred to use “newspaper” and “newspaper’s website” for the information, also lower than 53% in 2012.

Values of local newspapers to local residents

To examine the importance of local newspapers to local residents in small towns and cities in the United States, the survey continued to ask readers about the values of community newspaper in informing and providing them with local shopping and advertising information. The question items were copied from the 2009 Suburban Market Study by the then Suburban Newspapers of America (SNA) and have been used in the NNA research since 2010. Readers were asked to check all the items that applied to them.

 

TABLE 6: Thinking about [name of local newspaper], please tell me if each of the following applies to you

[Check all that apply]

Description of newspaper’s values

Percent (%)

2011

Percent (%)

2012

Percent (%)

2013

I/My family couldn’t live without it

12.7

21.4

15.0

I/My family look forward to reading it

75.1

84.1

80.1

It entertains me

64.9

74.5

71.6

It informs me

85.9

92.1

94.1

It provides valuable local shopping & advertising information

69.2

69.1

72.4

I/My family relies on it for local news and information

81.4

83.4

77.7

I use it to help make up my mind about candidates and elections

n.a.

45.7

49.3

Other – specify

18.6

25.7

19.9

Consistent with the findings of previous NNA search, in 2013

●          94% of readers thought the local newspapers were informative;

●          78% agreed that they and their families relied on the newspapers for local news and information;

●          80% of readers (and their families) would look forward to reading the newspapers;

●          72% thought the newspapers provided valuable local shopping & advertising information,

●          72% agreed that the local newspapers entertained them; and

●          Nearly half of readers (49%) used the newspapers for their political & voting decisions.

These findings suggest that local newspapers are valuable and key sources of information about local communities. This public dependence on community newspapers for their informational needs should be noted by local news organizations to continue to improve their editorial products, both in print and online, to meet or exceed public expectations.

Readership of public notices in local newspapers

 

How often do you read public notices in the local newspaper?

        In the 2013 survey, respondents were asked about the frequency of their visiting local government’s websites to look for public notices. As shown below, very few people did so.

 

How often do you go to your local government website to look for

any public notices that may have been posted there?

[n = 458]

 

 

Similarly, in the 2012 survey, 85% of residents had never visited the website of the Chamber of Commerce in their communities.  

 

How often do you visit the website of your local Chamber of Commerce?

[n = 544] 2012


 Readership of advertisements in local newspapers, including public notices

 

            Readers were also asked about how often they would read advertisements in local newspapers, as consistently done in the previous NNA research. The questions included grocery and supermarket, department stores, hardware stores, classified ads, public notice ads, and so on. Respondents were asked to use a 7-point scale with "7" being "very often" and "1" being "never") to provide their answers.

 

 

How often do you read public notice ads in the local newspaper?

 

            The survey also shows that a combined 57% of readers either “often” or “very often” read public notices in the community newspapers, similar to 56% in 2012 and higher than those in 2010 and 2011, suggesting the value of local newspapers as an effective vehicle of keeping the public informed of important announcements from the local government and schools.

 

TABLE I: Mean scores regarding readership of advertisements in local newspapers

                                                                                                                                                           

           

            Question Items                                      Mean Score       Mean Score       Mean Score  Mean Score

                                                                             (2005)               (2007)               (2008)          (2009)

                                                                                                                                                           

 

1.   How often read grocery & supermarket ads             4.43             4.30                  4.07             4.34

2.   How often read department store ads                      3.52             3.61                  3.17             3.35

3.  How often read hardware store ads                         3.86             3.67                  3.63             3.62

4.  How often read classified ads                                3.81             3.50                  3.55             4.00

5.    How often read public notice ads                                      3.18             2.72                  3.09            3.17

6.    How often read discount store ads                       3.80             3.55                  3.25             3.41

                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

TABLE I: Mean scores regarding readership of advertisements in local newspapers

                                                                                                                                                           

           

            Question Items                                      Mean Score       Mean Score       Mean Score  Mean Score

                                                                             (2010)               (2011)               (2012)          (2013)    

                                                                                                                                                           

 

1.   How often read grocery & supermarket ads             4.37             4.61                  4.78             4.35

2.   How often read department store ads                      3.05             3.12                  3.68             3.53

3.  How often read hardware store ads                         3.73             3.68                  3.76             3.82

4.  How often read classified ads                                4.42             3.56                  4.09             4.01

5.    How often read public notice ads                                      3.90             4.30                  4.54             4.49

6.    How often read discount store ads                       3.76            3.71                  3.84             3.68

                                                                                                                                                           

Notes:

  1. The question items were measured on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (never) to 7 (very often).
  1. n = 412 in 2005; n = 419 in 2007; n = 431 in 2008; n = 405 in 2009; n = 488 in 2010; n = 370 in 2011; n = 416 in 2012; n = 337 in 2013.

 

 


 

 

Do you think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers?

 

When asked “Do you think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers?” majority of community newspaper readers consistently said “yes” in the past four years.

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