06-30-09 | Printable Version

Integrated Newspaper Audience

Top 10 markets reach more than 80% of adults

In the third week of June 2009, one out of ten adults in America watched one of the four evening network news hours, according to Neilson Media. At peak audience thirty years ago, six out of ten adults tuned in.

This slide in audience is much more dramatic than the falloff in newspaper readership, yet is seldom reported or discussed outside media circles. The emerging online readership of newspapers and the prominence of local newspaper websites also seem to go unnoticed by many media pundits. Gary Meo, senior vice president of Scarborough Research said, “This data begs the question: Is the constant negative news feed on the industry warranted when newspapers are actually being read by three-fourths of the adult population? When you look at audience data, it seems irrational that advertisers are leaving newspapers because the numbers speak for themselves.”

Recently released by Scarborough Research, the Integrated Newspaper Audience (INA) study shows that three out of four adults read the print version of a newspaper, its online counterpart, or both, during the period analyzed. Noteworthy, considering that Nielson data shows the combined reach of both primetime television viewership and evening network news viewership during a similar period is less. This is by no means a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but the salient points of the research show that newspapers continue to be read by a very large percentage of the population and compare very favorably to other media. What local radio station or television station wouldn’t like to sell a weekly reach of 59% of the adult population – the lowest of the INA scores.

The highest INA score was recorded in Rochester, NY, where 87% of adults in Rochester read a printed newspaper, a newspaper website, or both, during the week the study was conducted. The INA penetration score factors out the duplication between online and print readership. The complete Scarborough report ranked the findings of the 81 different markets it measured. The top ten markets and the bottom ten markets are listed in the chart. (New York City was the 8th highest ranked market but was excluded because we were unable to locate comparable statistical data on its DMA for the additional analysis explained below).

We initially noticed a distinct geographical difference in the top and bottom ten markets. As one can see on the map below, the markets with the highest INA scores were all located in the Northeast while the lowest scoring markets were nearly all located in the Southern part of the country. While an interesting fact on its own, we assumed there must be something more to this outcome.


The other possible factors that came to mind were age, income, occupation, print household penetration and the average number of years of residency in a market. We were unable to locate reliable data on the latter, but continue to hold a hypothesis that the longer a resident lives in a market the more likely they are to regularly read a newspaper or its website.

The chart shows the top and bottom ten markets and their respective INA penetration scores. To the right are each market’s minority makeup, age, income, occupation and newspaper penetration data. This is Core Based Statistical Area Data, defined by a significant population center plus its surrounding communities that exhibit a high degree of social and economic assimilation with the center. This measure replaces the previously used Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

Minority Makeup. On the surface, the minority makeup of a market was the most significant differentiating metric. On average, the top ten markets had a 16.6% minority makeup, compared to 40.3% for the lowest ranking markets. The national average is 30%. However, one should not immediately assume that the minority makeup by itself is the key. Minority populations also tend to be younger and less affluent, which can be overriding determining factors. For example, Philadelphia has a slightly above average minority makeup, but an impressive 82% INA score.

Age. We looked at three age metrics: median age, percentage of residents over the age of 35, and the median age index. In each measure the top ranking markets were decisively older. The median age index provides a measure against the average (U.S. = 100).

Effective Buying Income (EBI). Somewhat surprisingly, the lowest scoring markets had slightly higher EBIs than the top scoring markets. This measure is often used as an indicator of market quality, but also can be misleading in areas where there is a disproportionate share of college, military or other institutional-style populations housed in group quarters. In addition, EBI measures income of the entire household, which can skew older markets lower, where a greater percentage of households have a single inhabitant. Markets with a younger median age often have multiple income producers in a single household.

Percentage of White Collar Jobs. Another theory we tested was whether the population in a market with a higher percentage of white collar jobs — where more people work on a computer all day — was more likely to read a daily newspaper online. White collar employment was defined as executive, administrative and managerial technicians, marketing and sales professionals, and related administrative and support positions. We found no significant difference in the percentage of white collar jobs between the two sets of markets, and thus it does not appear to be a differentiating factor.

Print Penetration. Existing print penetration is usually a predictor of a newspaper’s acceptance in a market. Our assumption was that if a newspaper starts with low print penetration it would also have low online penetration, which was supported by the INA study numbers.

For more information on the Scarborough study contact Gary Meo, gmeo@scarborough.com or go online to www.scarborough.com/freestudies.php.