Thursday, May 15, 2008

Who Reads Dead Trees Anymore?

Who still reads the print edition of a newspaper? That's what Robert Niles over at the Online Journalism Review asked his readers a couple of days ago. The unscientific response?
-- 35% said they read no print edition
-- 38% said they read one
-- 16% said they read two

To best gauge the meaning of those numbers, Niles also asked respondents how many print newspapers they read 10 years ago. The answer:
-- Only 15% read no print edition
-- 32% read one
-- 31% read two

These numbers tell us what we already know: No matter how many of your New York-based friends insist that there will always be space for a print edition because they "love to read the newspaper on the subway to work," the dead tree editions are actually on their way out. In this unscientific survey, the number of people not getting their news in paper form went up 100% in a decade. Whether that's the scientific number doesn't matter. It's a good enough proxy for the trend. And with the way change happens, the one thing we can count on is that rate of people ditching the paper version is only going to speed up.

So what does this mean? Newspapers say they can't ditch their print editions because that's where they're making their advertising dollars. Fair enough. Keeping the print edition is fine for a short-term strategy. Ten years max. Maybe more like five. As for long-term planning, these numbers should only increase that fire under newspapers' collective tushes to figure out the future business models that will make online news delivery a profitable enterprise.

Photo courtesy of dweinberger

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