One criticism stereotypically hurled at newspapers as other technology has evolved is: “Nobody reads the newspaper.”
Any time a new media has cropped up over many years, whether it be radio, television, the internet, there’s always been an opening for criticism that readership of newspapers is “dead.”
When your life’s work has been journalism in community newspapers, it’s difficult to hear someone say that “nobody reads the newspaper.”
Not only because it’s insulting, but because it’s wrong.
Newspapers like the Monroe Times are required to prove their readership through an independent audit. Just two weeks ago, the Times received its most recent audit from the Circulation Verification Council.
The Monroe Times’ gross distribution in the community is 3,157 newspapers and our net readership is 2,924 newspapers.
This newspaper is not losing readers. It has held its circulation even though we have switched from six to two days a week.
Such an audit for a newspaper is accurate because people pay to have our newspaper, and we can track exactly where our subscribers receive their newspapers and where we sell newspapers on racks at other businesses.
Far more people read the newspaper than our audit number reflects. This is because people share the newspaper and one newspaper is often read by multiple people. A newspaper often goes to a household with more than one adult. Multiple people read it at their places of work. At the Monroe Public Library, there is generally a line awaiting a chance to peruse the pages of the Times.
Monroe Mayor Louis Armstrong told me when I visited him at the Minhas brewery office that when the office copy of the Monroe Times arrives at that business it’s hard to find — because it keeps moving from person to person.
A walk around the Square will show you what people think of being positively featured in the newspaper. I stopped for lunch at Frank’s Franks and the inside of the restaurant includes several clippings about the business in the Monroe Times. I walk up the street to get something at Rainbow Confections and in their glass display case is an entire front page of the Monroe Times with a feature story on that business. It isn’t just prominently displayed in these businesses, but in many businesses.
Civic groups, nonprofits, schools, churches, clubs, etc., send us their news. Our pages are filled with local news people send to us. And people pay us to send them the newspaper in print, or to buy an online subscription so they can read this news. We not only have readers, the Monroe Times audience is comprised of readers with the highest levels of education in the community, and that means they also tend to have the highest income. Talk about having a captive audience?
Let’s suppose those who have the view that “nobody reads the paper” don’t consider positive community information, reporting or feature coverage as news. Suppose they don’t like to read local advertising content. Suppose they aren’t interested in the community at all. Do you want to see someone instantly believe in the power of newspaper readership? See what happens when their name appears in the court news.
The truth is we print far more positive stories about the place we live because it’s a unique, deep-rooted community. Talking about our readership is important because the number of media and entertainment opportunities today is incredible. People can escape into their internet radio subscription, they can subscribe to their television shows on services like Netflix and Hulu, they can easily remove themselves from local media sources.
People who have a deep interest in the community, however, are continually more willing to seek out local information provided in print and online by their local newspaper. Generations of readers are still addicted to having that newspaper in their hands and they enjoy going through the pre-print advertisements, looking at what’s for sale and where sales are happening.
Online readers know we regularly publish news that we deem important to the public beyond our internet paywall. Obituaries have always been available online with no paywall at themonroetimes.com.
The Monroe Times has a Facebook page with over 6,000 followers and it regularly posts social media notes about the stories we’re covering and news happening in the community. We have ways to help businesses target their print, online and social media audiences to our readership. Our CVC audit shows that our website has more than 35,000 web page views each month. Our Google Analytics audits show we provide local businesses between 800,000 to 1.3 million advertising impressions each month. These aren’t guesses; these are verified statistics.
Newspapers, like the Monroe Times, have to continue to tell their story. What we publish is read. We work diligently to do our best to provide our readers with the best news, advertising and online publishing.
We’re both the tried-and-true source of news and the next-best-thing in news at the same time. The Monroe Times has 120 years of tradition keeping this community informed.
— Matt Johnson is publisher of the Monroe Times. His column is published Wednesdays.