Study: Print Still Rules For Newspapers (As Fairfax Eyes Shutting The Presses)

Study: Print Still Rules For Newspapers (As Fairfax Eyes Shutting The Presses)

A new study – albeit it a British one – has found that Readers of Newspaper brands spend 89 per cent of their time absorbing content in the traditional print format, seven per cent of their time reading on a mobile device and just four per cent on a desktop computer.

The study, by Dr Neil Thurman of City, University of London and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, was based on data from the UK National Readership Survey and comScore online figures.

However, the positive news around print’s popularity should make for interesting reading over at Fairfax HQ. A report in today’s The Australian says one of its board members – billionaire investor Alex Waislitz – is pressuring other members of the board to hasten the move to digital-only mastheads and shut all its legacy print businesses. According to the article, Waislitz also wants Fairfax’s highly profitable real estate brand – Domain – to be given more independence.

However, the news is nothing new. There had been reports that Fairfax would close its weekday print edition as early as the first quarter of this year and company CEO, Greg Hywood, has never refuted the claims.

But Dr Thurman’s research may have Fairfax thinking otherwise. Sure, he admits, some online editions have almost triple the readership of their print-based brothers, however, it disguises the huge differences in time readers spent on each.

Thurman said: “My research shows that while print newspapers are read for an average of 40 minutes per day, online visitors to the websites and apps of those same newspapers spend an average of just 30 seconds per day. Scale those numbers up and you can see why newspapers still rely on print for the vast majority of the attention they receive.”

The study was based on 11 UK newspapers and the time spent on print over digital mirrored the profitability of each for publishers – 88 per cent VS 12 per cent in favour of print.

“It looks like revenues match audience attention closely,” said Dr Thurman. “This would make sense – after all, as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘time is money’.

“My calculations show the UK national newspaper market is more concentrated than is commonly believed, with one title – the Daily Mail – having close to a 30 per cent market share,” Thurman said.


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