Sunday, 4 March 2012

Death of the Canadian Newspaper?

Ten years ago newspapers in Canada were relied upon as a main source of news, second only to TV.  Today, far fewer rely upon the newspaper as their main source of what's going on in the world. Young, old, male, female, whatever demographic one looks at, the newspaper is but a shadow of what it was a decade ago.  This was revealed in our latest Media Trends Survey.

CMRI's Media Trends Survey has tracked usage and attitudes toward Canadian media, TV, radio, the internet and newspapers, for the past ten years.  It is the only survey to have tracked media use and attitudes continuously over this period.  Over 15,000 Canadians have been surveyed during this decade, using a sophisticated survey instrument developed over many years of experience and employing a representative sample of respondents, not just those who are on-line, which is often the case in research today.

In the past decade we have seen one very notable trend as far as news sources are concerned: the internet has grown from almost zero importance ten years ago to today, when 1 in 6 people say it is their main source for news.  At the start of the decade just under 60% said TV was their main supplier of news but in more recent years this has declined to about 50%.  Over the decade TV has lost ground to the internet but TV still represents the most important news source for the majority of Canadians, so Peter Mansbridge can breathe easy.  The newspaper has lost the most ground; less than 10% said it was their main source for news in 2011-12, less than half as many as at the beginning of the decade, perhaps a better indicator than declining circulation that newspapers must change to survive.  A decade ago newspapers were considered more important than radio and the internet but now the newspaper has fallen to fourth place among the four major sources of news.  This may not end well for Antonia Zerbisias and her print colleagues. At least they won't be blamed by the politicians for episodes like Vikileaks.
As is the case with other aspects of media use, demographics play a significant role in determining news choices.  Younger adults aged 18-34 are three times more likely to use the internet as their main news source when compared with adults aged 55-plus.  Males are more than twice as likely to use the internet as their main news supplier compared to females, who rely more on radio. Interestingly, CBC Radio 1 and 2 listeners are much less reliant on the internet and are far more likely to name radio as their main source of news, something CBC programmers should write down and store away carefully.  The newspaper, even among older Canadians, falls well back of TV and radio. Less than 5% of younger adults (18-34) depend on newspapers, which spells the end of the paper in another generation.  Newspapers everywhere are feverishly developing digital editions but comScore reports that less than 5% of internet use is spent with news and information sites, meaning that Canadians don't just depend on the established brands for their internet news.  In other words, news organizations would be wise to use social media and other portals to get their content read.  
Finally, the Media Trends Survey shows why Conservatives instinctively thought that the NDP were responsible for the anonymous tweeting about Vic Toews' personal life.  The Conservatives initially thought that the NDP were responsible but it turned out that a Liberal staffer was the culprit, who was a young male, perfectly matching the profile of the most internet-savvy in the 2011-12 Media Trends Survey. The Conservatives innately understood that NDPers are more reliant on the internet. In an earlier post we saw that both the NDP and Liberals are heavier users of Twitter than Conservatives but NDP supporters are about twice as likely to say the internet is their main source of news.  Liberals and Conservative supporters, i.e., those who voted that way in the spring 2011 federal election, actually fall below the national average when it comes to choosing the internet as their main supplier of news.  NDPers are the least reliant on newspapers but regardless of party affiliation, here as well, the newspaper has receded to last place as the main source for keeping up with the world.

The 2011 survey results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians in total in this period. 

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