Are "Digital Natives" Dropping Print Newspapers?


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Simply because young adults are less likely to read a print newspaper compared with other age groups, many news professionals assume young people have lost interest in reading print newspapers. Although previous research has documented that most readers found the print newspaper to be more useful, satisfying, likeable, and enjoyable than its online counterpart, many within and outside the industry believe young people are an exception, and the way to retain young readers is to pursue them online. However, because no viable business models for online news seem to exist, it is important to re-visit some of the assumptions about young readers' attitudes toward online and print media.
College newspapers provide a unique opportunity to test such assumptions because most college newspapers publish in both online and print formats, and both formats are offered for free. Additionally, their readers are college students ages 18-22 (the so-called "digital natives"), all with Internet access. A survey of 198 U.S. college newspaper advisers was conducted in 2011. The findings suggest that the print edition outperforms the Web edition in terms of readership and preference. The print edition generated the vast majority of advertising revenue. Print circulation in most cases has remained stable. And most college newspaper advisers do not believe an online-only model is feasible within the next five years. These results carry important implications for commercial newspapers as they envision the future of their industry.

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  • Do they really prefer online news?
  • Are "Digital Natives" Dropping Print Newspapers?

    1. 1. Are “Digital Natives” DroppingPrint Newspapers?A National Survey of College NewspaperAdvisersH. Iris Chyi, Ph.D.Assistant ProfessorSchool of JournalismCollege of CommunicationThe University of Texas at AustinTop rated research paper presented at the 13th InternationalSymposium on Online Journalism, Austin, Texas, April 20-21,2012
    2. 2. What everyone knows• No. 1: Young adults are less likely to read a print newspaper compared with other age groups.• No. 2: Younger people are more likely to spend time online compared with other age groups.
    3. 3. Widely accepted assumption• Young people are dropping print newspapers in favor of online news sources. • Nine out of ten journalists believed young adults prefer online news to print news (Kaufhold, 2010).
    4. 4. Industry response• Newspapers have shifted substantial amount of dwindling resources from print to online. • The Web is newspapers’ No. 1 priority for attracting young readers (Graybeal, 2011).
    5. 5. In reality• Young people are not using technologies to get news at higher rates than do older people (Pew Research Center, 2010).
    6. 6. Previous research• Most people find the print newspaper more useful, satisfying, likeable, enjoyable than its online counterpart (Chyi & Chang, 2009; De Waal et al., 2005; Online Publishers Association, 2004; Chyi & Lasorsa, 1999, 2002; Chyi & Lee, 2012).• Are so-called “digital natives” an exception?
    7. 7. Purpose of this study• To re-examine the assumptions about young people’s news-seeking habits and their attitude toward print and online newspapers.
    8. 8. College newspapers• Most college papers publish in online and print formats.• Both formats are offered for free.• Their target readers are college students ages 18-22, all with Internet access.• College papers publish content most relevant to campus life.
    9. 9. Method• A list of college newspaper advisers was obtained from College Media Association• A Web-based survey of U.S. college newspapers • May 6-June 6, 2011 • Completion rate: 41%
    10. 10. 198 college newspapers• Serving student population of • <5,000: 32% • 5,000 to 9,999: 17% • 10,000 to 19,999:22% • 20,000: 29%• Staff • 1.9 full-time and 1.6 part-time non-student staff members • 46 student staff members
    11. 11. Annual income• The average annual income =$206,785 • Advertising (47%) • Student fees (31%) • Academic funds (18%) • Other (5%)
    12. 12. Multiplatform publishing• Print edition: 98%• Web edition: 97% • Videos (75%) • Slideshows (64%) • Audio (54%)• Mobile app: 21%
    13. 13. Print vs. Web readership
    14. 14. Preference: Print vs. Web
    15. 15. Advertising revenue: Print vs. Web
    16. 16. Changes in print circulation during past 3 years• Increases: 11%• Stable: 58%• Declines: 26%
    17. 17. Changes in print ad revenue during past 3 years• Increases: 25%• Stable: 30%• Declines: 42%
    18. 18. Likelihood of adoptingonline-only model in 5 years
    19. 19. Why unlikely?• Open-ended responses • Online-only model “would be the death of this paper.” • “Once the racks disappear from campus, you are out of sight and out of mind to your audience.”
    20. 20. Conclusion• Digital natives are not dropping print newspapers in favor of their online counterparts as most think they would or have.• The print edition can be the most popular format among digital natives when it is readily accessible, free, and relevant.
    21. 21. Implication• The real problem has little to do with the “print format” per se and cannot be solved with technology alone.
    22. 22. Thank you and thank the College Media Association• For questions, please contact Iris Chyi at or