New Readership Study Proves Urban Vs Rural Divide Not Just a Theory
When your business revolves around assuring advertisers that the prevailing narrative about readership of printed newspapers dwindling doesn’t apply in rural areas, you become very skilled in the art of using anecdotal evidence to back up your claims. Third person accounts about the instability (and high costs) of internet service in small communities and farms find their way into media kits and CRTC Broadband coverage maps become a fundamental slide in every PowerPoint presentation. We’d count ourselves as professional Google Streetview drivers based on the number of times we’ve ‘toured’ clients through villages and towns on the prairies to illustrate the differences between urban and small town pace.
Surely advertisers can connect the dots from there, right?
Results from a new study, How Geography Impacts Media Access, Usage and Consumption, confirm that there is in fact, a marked difference in media habits in large urban centers and those out there in God’s country. And it appears that my cousin Brian was only half-joking when he said that everyday he walks 2 miles to the city library -up hill in both directions- in snow up to his knees just to email a 3MB file.
The study, commissioned by AdWest Marketing and conducted by Totum Research Inc. on the back of 750 phone interviews with people living in various sizes of communities under 50,000 population confirms that several factors, most of which are less prevalent in urban markets, bind rural households more tightly to traditional media, printed local newspapers in particular. While receivership and penetration numbers of even 50% would be unheard of in most urban markets across Canada, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba markets with 50,000 people or fewer, nearly 80% (79.6) of respondents indicate they receive a printed community newspaper at home. Moreover, of the individuals sampled, 79.2% of people reported that they have actually read or looked into a printed community newspaper in the last week. This, a full 13 years after ComBase (the now-defunct community newspaper readership study) last reported that 67% of Manitobans read a community newspaper in the last week and 83% of people in Saskatchewan reported same. To confirm, you are not seeing things, readership of community newspapers in rural MB has actually increased and in SK remained basically flat, in the time period that has seen the launch of Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone.
Amongst the factors that appear to keeping the bond between people in rural areas and their local printed newspapers are Trust in the content and advertising of various platforms as well as inconsistencies in the various types of internet service available in rural areas.
Trust in News and Advertising
Whereas nearly 80% (79.3) of respondents indicate they trust Somewhat or Very Much the news and advertising in their local printed community newspaper. Conversely, one in three (32.7%) reported that they Distrust Somewhat or Very Much the content and advertising in Social Media. This compares to 2.8% who said they have levels of distrust in the content and advertising in their local printed newspapers.
People’s trust in their local printed community newspaper likely underpins their feelings and preferences when it comes to the platforms they look to for various types of information. Across all measured markets printed community newspapers rank as the preferred source for all categories of local news and information and the source most likely to Inspire Action when it comes to advertising related to various sectors. 54% of respondents indicated they found print ads in the local community newspaper to be useful whereas three quarters either ignored or were annoyed by ads in online media platforms. Before we start feeling too bad for Google or Facebook, the study also shows that people living in rural areas aren’t likely to be visiting the websites of their local newspaper either with only 12.4% of respondents saying they’d visited the website of a local community newspaper in the last week. It’s clear that the adage about things not changing in rural communities applies to media habits as well.
Variable Internet Accessibility is Perhaps a Real Thing After All
While over three quarters of respondents indicated that they did have an internet connection at home, less than half were served with the same type of service used by most urbanites, wired high speed. Nearly one quarter subscribe to internet service bound by data limitations (satellite, mobile phone) resulting in the majority of respondents saying their internet connection either affected or prevented online activities ranging from shopping (26% affected) through watching streaming video (33%) and engagement with social media (26%). When it comes to doing online research, a staggering 41.3% of respondents said their internet connection affects their ability do it.
22% of respondents said they have an AdBlocker installed on a device and perhaps most surprisingly, respondents WITH internet access at home were more likely to have read a printed community newspaper in the past week (80.7%) vs those WITHOUT access (74.2%).
It turns out that we community newspaper marketers have actually been selling ourselves a little short in our assumption that people without internet were by default, guaranteed readers of printed community newspapers. I guess the tie that binds readers to their local printed community newspaper IS thicker than an internet connection after all.