How Newspapers Can Improve Readership


Photo: Flickr, NS Newsflash
One of the hardest repercussions to witness of the recession was the falter and closing of so many newspapers nationwide. As of 2012, there has been a 14% decline in the number of listed newspapers since the 1990s.

You could call it a perfect storm. After all, things were on the decline prior to that time period thanks to the true “take-off” of the digital age and onslaught of online advertising. It was only a matter of time before financial struggles would test the strength of these publications, forcing them to either go slim or throw in the towel when there simply wasn’t enough ad revenue, nor enough print subscribers to battle the recession when it hit at its hardest.

But the good news is the light we can see at the slowing approaching end of this tunnel. As we comb our way out of this time of financial dimness, we find that newspapers and those who enjoy reading them are alive and well. While it’s true that readership continues to slide, the bright spot is the perspective of industry pundits who believe there is a way to reverse this trend.

The key, of course, is heeding their advice by paying attention to the results of a massive data-mining project led by the Readership Institute. Having already collected interviews with more than 37,000 individuals and an online of mass of reports, presentations, and studies, this project is being called “the biggest gold mine of data [we’ve] ever had.”

The advice? It begins with “four cornerstones of readership growth”:

  1. Providing readers with excellent customer service
  2. Improving editorial and advertising content
  3. Promoting the brand in order to build recognition and loyalty
  4. Evolving both management and culture

In order to reach these four cornerstones, this study is revealing some shocking and not-so-shocking demands the public is making on publications, to include:

  • Better content with a community focus
  • Better variety
  • Great customer service (on-time deliveries, etc.)
  • An ability to handle change management issues and respond with flexibility
  • Making them more user-friendly and easily-organized
  • Offering a wealth of advertisements
  • Adjusting the length of certain articles (making weather stories shorter and science/technology longer)
  • Focusing more on news that involves community activities, lifestyles and global relationships, and less on crime
  • Changing the design to be more engaging and interesting is far down on the list of things readers find important, although it is a consideration

While the list may seem daunting (and this isn’t even the full extent of it), there’s one thing that’s for sure: it sure it going to be exciting to watch this all play out…the Cinderella story of the print world.

A Part of History
Whether you’ve been in the newspaper industry at one time in the past or you’re part of the revival movement that’s occurring, you know how special this industry is and what it means to the nation’s history. Take pride. Frame an article. There’s plenty of reason to want to frame a bit of history.

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