A series of new reports show how local print newspapers around the world perform a vital service for their readers. We look at which countries value their newspapers the most.
The past year has seen great upheavals in the fortunes of many businesses and industries. Some, like e-commerce, food retail, and online video have soared, while others, such as travel, hospitality and entertainment have struggled. But around the world, one surprising winner in the Covid wars has been local newspapers.
Eighteen months ago, the future for local newspapers around the world was bleak – and that was without a pandemic to contend with. As newsroom, print and distribution costs were rising, the number of readers and advertising revenue were falling. There were many plans to monetise online activities, but faced with intense competition from the digital giants of social media and search, many newspapers printed their last editions, with many others destined to follow them.
However, an explosion of fake news led to a global culture of mistrust, with online media – particularly social – bearing the brunt of that mistrust. People needed information about the pandemic, information they could trust and act upon, and started looking towards the traditional media for it. And with many people confined to their local area, the more local the media, the better.
Local News For Local People
A new report has outlined this pivot, with local newspapers now seen as the best source of news in six key categories. The study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found they were regarded as the best for local announcements (48%), local crime (31%), the local economy (30%), local politics (29%), local sport (27%), and schools and education (22%).
One of the countries that valued local newspapers the highest was Norway, where 53% of respondents stated that local media was the best source of information for Covid-19. Other topics Norwegians valued their local press for included crime (73%), politics (71%), things to do (46%), and local jobs (33%).
In general, traditional media (newspapers, TV, and radio) are preferred for hard news topics, accounting for about 50% to 60% of preferences for politics, crime, Covid-19, the economy, and sport, with newspapers continuing to be highly valued for formal announcements such as births, deaths, and weddings.
An essential service
This love of local newspapers is echoed in other countries. A recent study by the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany found that newspapers are the most credible medium after TV, with the more local the title, the more trusted it is. While 56% of the population consider national newspapers to be trustworthy, that figure rises to an impressive 63% for regional daily newspapers. Meanwhile, in France, the French Group of regional newspapers (PQR) saw an increase in subscriptions in 2020, as well as increased demand from advertisers.
Head across to the other side of the world and you’ll find that the local newspaper industry is even healthier. A survey by a group of Australian universities and trade organisations found that newspaper readers in rural and regional Australia are five times more likely to go directly to their local newspaper than Google or Facebook for local information.
Country Press Australia also found that the majority of respondents (71%) prefer to read their local paper in print than online, with 86% regarding a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service for their community.
In many places around the world there’s a clear requirement for a well funded, well produced local press service. Given that universal internet connection is still many years away, that service must also include print. Now more than ever, communities need to have access to a trusted and reliable source of news, not only to keep them informed about their local area but to give them vital guidance and health advice as we emerge from the pandemic.
A recent study conducted by Two Sides, revealed that 33% of all UK respondents and 54% of over 65-year-olds prefer to read their newspapers in print. 37% prefer to read magazines and 50% books in print. It is the younger generations who now opt for digital devices when they want to access news or pass the time with a book.
However, print remains an important channel and for hard hit newspapers, 43% of UK respondents would be concerned if printed news were to disappear.